Gard’s creation in 1907 was a rejection of ’new‘ technology as the association was formed by shipowners who rejected steam ships and wanted a Club dedicated only to sailing ships. Today, 110 years later, Gard is looking forward to providing Hull and Machinery and P&I insurance to what will become the one of the world’s first autonomous container ships with zero emissions — the YARA BIRKELAND.
The Norwegian company, Yara International ASA, is a leading fertiliser manufacturer with operations worldwide. It commissioned the YARA BIRKELAND, now being designed and built in partnership with Kongsberg Maritime, to transfer its products from the manufacturing site to port. In addition to operating without crew, the ship is battery powered and is designed without ballast tanks. The ship will 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.
“YARA BIRKLAND is a game-changer that will set a new standard in the maritime sector,” says Bjørn Tore Orvik, Yara project manager for the YARA BIRKELAND. “It is also a commercial solution that will help the world deliver on the climate goals as set forth in the Paris agreement.” It was Orvik’s idea to build an autonomous, electric ship, and he sees a potential to shake up the entire industry. The Norwegian government has allocated some NOK 133 million (USD 16 million) in funds, while the total cost of the project (ship and quayside equipment) is estimated at NOK 400 million, or USD 49 million.
The YARA BIRKELAND, 79.5 metres in length and with a service speed of six knots, is scheduled to enter service in 2019, initially operating as a manned ship with a captain and small crew located in a container-based bridge and crew unit. She will sail on two routes within one of the Norwegian fjords; between Herøya and Brevik, a distance of some seven nautical miles, and between Herøya and Larvik which is 30 nautical miles, carrying chemicals and fertiliser. The aim is for fully autonomous sailing from 2020.
Today, Yara products are transported by road on diesel-powered trucks travelling on small roads and through residential areas. Transit by sea on the YARA BIRKELAND will remove around 40,000 truck journeys each year from Norwegian roads and reduce NOx and CO2 emissions.
Norway was the first country to announce a dedicated testing area for autonomous ships back in September 2016 and Norwegian companies are now developing the technology for autonomous ship operation. Gard is honoured to offer the insurance that these ships will require.
Much work must be done with the IMO, Class Societies, Flag and Coastal Administrations to address the new technology. Gard’s collaboration with Yara and participation in industry, academic and legal fora ensure we and our Members learn to understand the risks and rewards of autonomous ships.