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Yara picks Vard to build its zero-emissions, zero-crew containership

Written by Nick Blenkey
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Yara Birkeland

AUGUST 15, 2018 — Norwegian fertilizer giant Yara has signed a shipbuilding contract worth approximately NOK 250 million (about $30 million) with Fincantieri subsidiary Vard for construction of the zero-emission vessel Yara Birkeland, the world’s first autonomous and electrically driven container vessel.

Yara Birkeland is scheduled to be delivered from Vard Brevik in Norway in first quarter 2020. The hull will be built at Vard’s Braila, Romania, shipyard.

The vessel will operate in Norway, in a cargo transit between Yara’s plant in Porsgrunn to ports in Brevik and Larvik.

With a length of 80 meters and a beam of 15 meters, the vessel will have a cargo capacity of 120 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit). Replacing 40,000 truck journeys a year, Yara Birkeland will reduce NOx and CO2 emissions, and improve road safety in a densely populated urban area.

The vessel will gradually transition from manned operation to fully autonomous operation by 2022.

Yara and Kongsberg announced a partnership to build the vessel last year (see story).

“A vessel like Yara Birkeland has never been built before, and we rely on teaming up with partners with an entrepreneurial mindset and cutting edge expertise. Vard combines experience in customized shipbuilding with leading innovation, and will deliver a game-changing vessel which will help us lower our emissions, and contribute to feeding the world while protecting the planet,” said Svein Tore Holsether, President and CEO of Yara.

Mr. Roy Reite, CEO and Executive Director of Vard, commented: “We are honored to be chosen as Yara’s partner in this innovative and exciting project. With a longstanding experience in building state-of-the-art and tailor-made specialized vessels, we are excited to be given the opportunity to build the world’s first autonomous and electrically-driven container vessel. It is a pleasure to welcome Yara and Kongsberg to Vard, and we look forward to working closely with all parties involved.”

The project has received NOK 133.6 million (about $16 million in support from the Norwegian government enterprise ENOVA.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg was present for the signing of the shipbuilding contract at Vard Brevik.

“This is a good example of how Norwegian industry can collaborate to create new solutions and green jobs,” she said. “Yara, Kongsberg and Vard have built on their knowledge about technology, logistics and ship building with an ambition to create sustainable innovation together. The result is exciting pioneer projects like this one. I am proud that the Government has supported the development of Yara Birkeland through ENOVA and send my best wishes for the construction.”

Kongsberg is a key partner in the project, responsible for the enabling technologies including the sensors and integration required for remote and autonomous operations.

Yara Birkeland represents an important next step for the entire maritime industry, representing a major technological and sustainable advancement. The Norwegian maritime cluster has taken a leading position within technology, design, legislation, testing and all other aspects of the development,” says Geir Håøy, CEO of Kongsberg.

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