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Japan’s Next Generation of Marine Technology

Japan’s greenhouse gas reduction strategy creates business opportunities for U.S. firms with cutting-edge marine technologies.

Measures related to carbon neutrality, digital transformation technology, and autonomous vehicles are changing the Japanese maritime industry.  A March 2022 report by Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) outlined projects to develop zero emission vessels and fuels with specific plans on achieving targets, launching new vessels, and examining vessel fuels. The plans fall under last year’s larger strategy about how to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 as drafted by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).

According to International Energy Agency (IEA) reports, hydrogen, ammonia, and biofuels will become predominant fuels utilized in the shipping sector.  IEA analysis states that the shipping industry will use ammonia and biofuels due to energy density, quantity, and schedules for large engine development.  In addition, vessel fuel conversion will accelerate from existing heavy oil-based fuels to gas fuels, such as hydrogen, ammonia, and clean methane from recycled carbon dioxide.  The 2022 MLIT report emphasizes development of the related vessel engines, ship storage, auxiliary equipment, fittings, and bunkering facilities.  In support of MLIT, a METI-funded group offers a “Development of Zero Emission Vessels” project utilizing Green Innovation Funds (over $2 billion) awarded through 2030 by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).

To build new vessels, the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) encourages a decrease greenhouse gas emission. The International Maritime Organization for Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) Annex VI will require all ships to calculate their Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (EEXI) measuring existing ships by 2023. With the combination of EEDI, EEXI, and Carbon Intensity Indicators, vessel optimization systems will soon need to cope with new fuels.

Under its “Next Generation Mobility” project, MLIT is conducting pilot projects to examine vehicles that are autonomous underwater, autonomous surface, and remotely operated in various applications including fishery, aquaculture, and port infrastructure inspection.  Additionally, MLIT will pursue automated vessels development such as with manipulation from land and actions using artificial intelligence.  The immediate goal is to put “automated vessels to support ship operators” into practical use by 2025. 

U.S. companies interested in entering the Japanese market should consider partnering with Japanese companies.  U.S. firms with problem-solving and cutting-edge technology contributing to Japan’s initiatives should contact the U.S. Commercial Service in Osaka at for updates and additional information.