According to MANA, new organization toward this end will be established as early as summer, with the Tokyo-based National Maritime Research Institute to steer the project.
Japan Marine United, Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding and Kawasaki Heavy Industries will also participate. Shipping companies including Mitsui O.S.K. Lines and Nippon Yusen are expected to join as well.
The self-navigation system would determine optimal routes by analyzing such factors as weather, wave height and other vessels' courses. Shipbuilders and marine transporters will share data to advance the development. Shortening routes and shipping times would help reduce fuel consumption and emissions.
New evaluation criteria for fuel efficiency are also being devised to be more closely attuned to actual shipping times. This could give a competitive advantage to Japanese shipbuilders, which are strong in energy conservation technology.
Ship orders amounted to some 3.72 million gross tons in 2016, data from the Japan Ship Exporters' Association shows. Orders plunged to around one-sixth the level of 2015, which saw a rush of demand ahead of stiffer environmental rules.
In South Korea, whose shipbuilders lead the global market with a roughly 40% share, the government is leading efforts to right the industry's finances.