Chinese officials are reporting that they have put the
world’s first autonomous, electric container feeder ship into commercial
service after a period of extensive trials. The vessel, which was developed
through a broad collaboration of Chinese institutions is reported to be a
demonstration ship that will provide significant learning for the future
development of the technology.
The vessel, named Zhi Fei (Chinese for Flying Wisdom)
commenced its first regular voyage on April 22. The Zhi Fei is reported to be
approximately 8,000 dwt with a capacity of 300 TEU. The vessel is 384 feet long
with a beam of 57 feet and a depth of approximately 32 feet. Propulsion is
reported to be by a DC electric system that gives the feeder ship a top speed
of approximately 12 knots and a normal operating speed of 8 knots. The Zhi Fei
was built by the Qingdao Shipyard.
The design for the vessel was led by Bestway in cooperation
with Shanghai Jiahao Ship Design Institute and the Dalian Maritime University.
The initial construction contract was signed at the end of 2019 with work
beginning in May 2020. The vessel was launched in April 2021 with the first sea
trials in June and testing on the systems began last September. The technical evaluation
was completed in March 2022, and the vessel is now operating between Qingdao
Port in Shandong Province and Dongjiakou managed by Navigation Brilliance
According to the reports, the ship adopts a full-rotation
electric propulsion system based on hybrid technology and integrates
large-capacity battery packs and generator sets through DC networking to
achieve intelligent energy efficiency optimization. The Chinese are saying that
it is the first time that a DC power system has been combined with intelligent
The containership is capable of operating in three different
modes, manned driving, remote driving, and unmanned driving. The intelligent
systems provide independent route planning, intelligent collision avoidance,
and remote-control operations. The vessel employs 5G, satellites, and other
Information developed from this project and the operation of
the ship are contributing to efforts to build similar self-propelled
containerships with a larger capacity from 500 to 800 TEU.