Autonomous vessel flagship Yara Birkeland departs on maiden voyage

Yara Birkeland, the world’s first electric and self-propelled container ship, has departed for its maiden voyage in the Oslo fjord ahead of the commencement of commercial operations in 2022.

Developed in collaboration with Kongsberg, the ship was built at the VARD shipyard for Norwegian company Yara with financial support from government body Enova. The vessel will now begin a two-year testing period evaluating the technology used to make the ship self-propelled, before its final certification as an autonomous, all-electric container ship.

“We are proud to be able to showcase the world’s first fully electric and self-propelled container ship. It will cut 1,000 tonnes of CO2 and replace 40,000 trips by diesel-powered trucks a year,” said Svein Tore Holsether, CEO of Yara.

“We have been looking forward to this day for a long time. The Yara Birkeland will transport mineral fertiliser between Porsgrunn and Brevik and will contribute to significant emission cuts during transport.”

“This 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.”

The ship will be operated by Massterly, an autonomous shipping joint venture between Kongsberg and Wilhelmsen, from Massterly’s monitoring and operations centre in Horten. Enova, a Norwegian government enterprise responsible for promotion of renewable energy, has allocated up to NOK 133.5 million (approx. US$15 million) to the project 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.

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Rob O'Dwyer

Rob is Chief Network Officer and one of the founders of Smart Maritime Network. He also serves as Chairman of the Smart Maritime Council. Rob has worked in the maritime technology sector since 2005, managing editorial for a range of leading publications in the transport and logistics sector. Get in touch by email by clicking here, or on LinkedIn by clicking here.

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