The Yara Birkeland will move to remote control in 2019 and full autonomy from 2020 © Yara
The Yara Birkeland will move to remote control in 2019 and full autonomy from 2020 © Yara

Autonomous zero emissions ship unveiled

A Norwegian fertiliser company is set to introduce the first fully autonomous electrically-powered ship.

The Yara company is introducing the battery-powered Yara Birkeland, which is due to start transporting products from its Porsgrunn production plant to ports at Brevik and Larvik.

The ship will create zero emissions and Yara estimates it will save the need for up to 40,000 truck journeys in populated urban areas.

Initially the Yara Birkeland, named after the chemist who formed the company, will operate as a manned vessel.

It will move to remote control in 2019 and is expected to be capable of performing fully autonomous operations from 2020. 

Yara president Svein Tore Holsether said more than 100 diesel truck journeys are needed daily to transport products from the Porsgrunn plant to Brevik and Larvik, where products are shipped 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,” Holsether added.    

Technologies enable the ship to be remotely operated, with sensors and control systems for batteries and propulsion. They were developed by Norwegian company Kongsberg.

Rolls Royce is working on a project in Finland that it hopes will lead to a remotely controlled or fully autonomous ship operating in Finnish coastal waters before the end of the decade.

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