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Yara to start operating the world’s first battery-electric container ship, prepared for autonomous operation

Yara Birkeland (earlier post)—the world’s first battery- electric container ship, prepared for autonomous operation—has departed for its maiden voyage in the Oslo fjord. The autonomous ship will sail within 12 nautical miles from the coast, between 3 ports in southern Norway.

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.

—Svein Tore Holsether, CEO of Yara

The 120 TEU Yara Birkeland was developed in collaboration with the Kongsberg Group. The ship was built by VARD with financial support from Enova, and will be in commercial operation from 2022.

Kongsberg is responsible for development and delivery of all key enabling technologies including the sensors and integration required for remote and autonomous ship operations, in addition to the electric drive, battery and propulsion control systems.



For the first phase of the project a detachable bridge with equipment for maneuvering and navigation has been implemented (top). When the ship is ready for autonomous operation this module will be lifted off (bottom). Photos: VARD

Loading and discharging will be done automatically using electric cranes and equipment. The ship will not have ballast tanks, but will use the battery pack as permanent ballast.

The ship is also be equipped with an automatic mooring system; berthing and unberthing will be done without human intervention, and will not require special implementations dock-side.

Now begins a two-year testing period of the technology that will make the ship self-propelled, and finally certified as an autonomous, all-electric container ship.

To ensure safety, three centers with different operational profiles will handle all aspects of operation. These centers will handle emergency and exception handling, condition monitoring, operational monitoring, decision support, surveillance of the autonomous ship and its surroundings and all other aspects of safety. An interface towards Yara logistical operation will be implemented at the operational center at Herøya.

The ship will be operated from Massterlys’ monitoring and operations center in Horten. Massterly is a joint venture between KONGSBERG and Wilhelmsen.

Enova, a Norwegian government enterprise responsible for promotion of renewable energy, has allocated up to NOK 133.5 million (US$15.2 million) to build the first electric and autonomous container ship.

In parallel with the construction of Yara Birkeland, Yara has initiated the development of green ammonia as an emission-free fuel for shipping, through the newly started Yara Clean Ammonia.

As the world’s largest producer of fertilizers, Yara relies on ammonia to make fertilizer, and to help feed an ever-growing population. At the same time, current ammonia production represents 2% of the world’s fossil energy consumption. This corresponds to about 1.2% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions.


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