VIDEO: Zero emissions, zero ballast — and zero crew

Written by Nick Blenkey
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MAY 9, 2017 — Norwegian based fertilizer giant Yara is cooperating with Kongsberg to develop what will be the world’s first fully electric autonomous containership, with zero emissions  and zero ballast.

To be named Yara Birkeland, after Yara’s founder, scientist and innovator Kristian Birkeland, the zero emission container feeder vessel is planned to enter service in the latter half of 2018, shipping products from Yara’s Porsgrunn production plant to Brevik and Larvik in Norway.

Yara says that by moving cargo currently carried by road to sea it will reduce diesel-powered truck haulage by 40,000 trips a year.

Yara Birkeland will initially operate as a manned vessel, moving to remote operation in 2019 and to fully autonomous operations from 2020. The new zero-emission vessel is seen as a game-changer for global maritime transport contributing to meeting UN sustainability goals.

“As a leading global fertilizer company with a mission to feed the world and protect the planet, investing in this zero emission vessel to transport our crop nutrition solutions fits our strategy well,” says Svein Tore Holsether, President and CEO of Yara. “We are proud to work with Kongsberg to realize the world’s first autonomous, all-electric vessel to enter commercial operation

“Every day, more than 100 diesel truck journeys are needed to transport products from Yara’s Porsgrunn plant to ports in Brevik and Larvik where we ship products to customers around the world. 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.”

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

“By moving container transport from land to sea, Yara Birkeland is the start of a major contribution to fulfilling national and international environmental impact goals. The new concept is also a giant step forward towards increased seaborne transportation in general,” says Geir Håøy, President and CEO of Kongsberg.

As a leading global maritime technology company, Kongsberg’s integrated control and monitoring systems are already capable of providing technology for remote and unmanned operations. Yara Birkeland will benefit from competence and technologies developed across Kongsberg.

“Developing systems for autonomous operations is a major opening and natural step for Kongsberg, considering our decades of expertise in the development and integration of advanced sensors, control and communication systems for all areas of ship operations. Yara Birkeland will set the benchmark for the application of innovative maritime technology for more efficient and environmentally friendly shipping,” says Mr. Håøy.

No word yet on the ship’s dimensions, what shipyard it will be built in, what it will cost, or the technology that will be used to achieve zero ballast operation.

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