The world is trying to get every vehicle to become autonomous, may it be cars, drones, airplanes, and what not. No wonder humans are scared of losing their jobs to artificial systems. In the whole hype of self-driving cars, we hear very little about autonomous vehicles at the sea. While others may not consider the wide possibilities of the autonomous shipping container, a Norwegian company Yara did. Yara has partnered with a maritime technology company Kongsberg and built the world’s first all-electric autonomous container ship that is prepared to float by the end of 2018.
The Yara Birkeland is a high-tech container ship that will transport chemicals and fertilizers from Yara’s Prosgrunn production plant to the town of Brevik and Larvik nearby. When the ship first sets sails in 2018, it will be operated manually. By 2019, the all-electric ship will be enabled for remote operation, and plans call to impart full autonomy by 2020. As of now, the fertilizer and chemical cargo require 40,000 truck journeys a year, and the electric shipping way will reduce the NOx and CO2 emissions significantly. The President and CEO of Yara, Svein Tore Holsether says, “With this new autonomous battery-driven container vessel we move transport from road to sea and thereby reduce noise and dust emissions, improve the safety of local roads, and reduce NOx and CO2 emissions.”
Before the Yara Birkeland manages to move towards autonomous operation, it has to overcome a lot of pragmatic and regulatory hurdles. The Norwegian Maritime Authority and the Norwegian Coastal Administration have signed an agreement to designate the Trondheim fjord area solely for the testing of autonomous ships. This will solve a lot of issues that the company has come across in the development of its autonomous ship.
The first autonomous all-electric commercial ship will be sailing the seas hopefully by 2020, that actually sounds like it will get to us quicker than self-driving cars that have been hyped for decades. Autonomous ships, once fully developed will offer tons of application in shipping, increasing the efficiency significantly by reducing human intervention, and the need for extra cabin space for human operators.
Learn more about the Yara Birkeland in the video below: