World’s first autonomous cargo ship launches in Norway

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Norwegian chemical company Yara is set to start operating the world’s first autonomous fully electric container ship, after the Birkeland departed on its maiden voyage in the Oslo fjord on 19 November.  

The container ship has been developed in collaboration with technology group Kongsberg. It was built by specialised vessel manufacturer Vard with financial support from Enova, a government enterprise responsible for the promotion of renewable energy.

Enova has invested NOK 133.5m (£11m) to build the world’s first electric and autonomous container ship.

“On the way to a low-emission society, transport emissions must come down to almost zero. To achieve that, we need projects that can transform the market – projects that have the potential to pave the way for others and increase the pace of change in their sector. This is exactly what we believe the world’s first autonomous and all-electric container ship will do,” said Nils Kristian Nakstad, CEO of Enova.

The Yara Birkeland, which launched from Oslo, is the world’s first fully electric and soon to be autonomous container vessel

A two-year testing period of the technology is now underway, with the team working to make the ship self-propelled, and finally certified as an autonomous.

Furthermore, as the ship is fully electric the project aims to cut 1,000 tonnes of CO2 as it replaces 40,000 trips by diesel-powered trucks a year.

Svein Tore Holsether, CEO of Yara, said: “We have been looking forward to this day for a long time. Yara Birkeland will transport mineral fertiliser between Porsgrunn and Brevik and will contribute to significant emission cuts during transport.

“This is an excellent example of green transition in practice, and we hope this ship will be the start of a new type of emission-free container ships. There are a lot of places in the world with congested roads that will benefit from a high-tech solution like this.”

It is expected Yara Birkeland will be in commercial operation from 2022.

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