An innovative and futuristic first all-electric, autonomous cargo vessel has been introduced in Norway. It is expected to replace 40,000 diesel-powered truck journeys every year. The Yara Birkeland was launched on its first crewed trip to the capital of Oslo. It will now be used for commercial purposes.
The ship is a product of a joint venture between chemical production firm Yara and maritime technology company Kongsberg in 2017. The main objective of the ship is to transport the chemicals and fertilizer from Yara’s production plant in Prosgrunn to nearby towns. This practice will substantially cut down NOx and CO2 emissions as it will be used as an alternative to truck transport.
The ship is 80 meters in length and has a 6.8-MWh battery pack. It can carry up to 3,200 tons at a maximum speed of 15 knots (28 km/h, 17 mph). Yara is also using its own ammonia to make fertilizers so there is a zero-carbon fuel source for eventual use aboard the Yara Birkeland. Ammonia is claimed to be good for long trips of ships but there are several kinks to iron out in how it can be produced and used to serve the purpose.
“Renewable energy was our starting point in 1905, now, ammonia can bring us back to our roots,” says Magnus Krogh Ankarstrand, CEO of Yara Clean Ammonia, as the initiative is called. “Our large shipping network and existing infrastructure means that ammonia has the potential to become the leading fuel for long-distance shipping globally,”
Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre received a tour from Yara CEO Svein Tore Holsether on its maiden journey.
“We are proud to be able to showcase the world’s first fully electric and self-propelled container ship,” says Svein Tore Holsether, CEO of Yara. “It will cut 1,000 tonnes of CO2 and replace 40,000 trips by diesel-powered trucks a year.”
In 2022, the ship will be used for commercial reasons. There will be a two-year trial period started simultaneously to make sure that its autonomous setting is perfect. Once approved, it can transform the shipping industry.
“We have been looking forward to this day for a long time. Yara Birkeland will transport mineral fertilizer between Porsgrunn and Brevik and will contribute to significant emission cuts during transport,” says Holsether. “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 ship. There are a lot of places in the world with congested roads that will benefit from a high-tech solution like this.”