The Yara Birkeland, claimed to be the world’s first electric, self-propelled container ship, has undertaken its maiden voyage in the Oslo fjord in 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 tons of CO2 and replace 40,000 trips by diesel-powered trucks a year,” commented Svein Tore Holsether, Yara’s CEO.
The Yara Birkeland is a collaborative project involving several partners, including Kongsberg, which was responsible for the delivery and development of the technology on board the ship. Financial support was provided by Enova and the vessel was built by Vard. It is scheduled to begin commercial operation in 2022 and will be operated from Maasterly’s monitoring and operations center in Horten, Norway. Maasterly is a Wilhelmsen/Kongsberg joint-venture company set up to operate autonomous vessels.
“We have been looking forward to this day for a long time. The Yara Birkeland will transport mineral fertilizer between Porsgrunn and Brevik and will contribute to significant emission cuts during transport,” said Holsether. “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 ship. There are a lot of places in the world with congested roads that will benefit from a high-tech solution like this.”
Over the next two years, testing of the technology will be carried out to make the vessel self-propelled and to certify it as an autonomous and all-electric container ship.
“Yara Birkeland is the result of the extensive knowledge and experience we have available in the Norwegian maritime cluster and industry. The project demonstrates how we have developed world-leading innovation that contributes to the green transition and provides great export opportunities for Norwegian technology and industry,” said Geir Håøy, CEO of Kongsberg.
Enova, a government enterprise responsible for the promotion of renewable energy, allocated NOK133.5m (US$15m) to build the Yara Birkeland.
“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.
In addition to the construction of the Yara Birkeland, the company has begun the development of Yara Clean Ammonia as an emission-free fuel for shipping.
“Our large shipping network and existing infrastructure mean that ammonia has the potential to become the leading fuel for long-distance shipping globally,” explained Magnus Krogh Ankarstrand, CEO of Yara Clean Ammonia.