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'Robo-ships' offer lifeline for Japan's shorthanded industry

Project with NTT and Nippon Yusen on board eyes 2021 test for remote navigation

Unmanned ships are expected to yield economic benefits of 1 trillion yen in 2040, the Nippon Foundation estimates. (Photo courtesy of the DFFAS project)

TOKYO -- A group of 40 Japanese shipping companies, shipbuilders and technology companies aims to have remote-control vessels ply Japanese waters as early as 2025, a potential life preserver for a graying industry suffering from a chronic labor shortage.

The project under the auspices of the nonprofit Nippon Foundation will use satellites and high-speed fifth-generation wireless networks for communication between land and sea, and artificial intelligence to help set efficient routes. Participants include Nippon Yusen and Nippon Telegraph & Telephone.

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