Development On World’s First Electric And Autonomous Container Vessel Paused Due To Pandemic

The hull of the Yara Birkeland vessel was launched to sea in Romania in February 2020 and is expected to arrive at the Norwegian shipyard in May where she will be fitted with various control- and navigation systems and undergo testing before delivery to Yara.

navigation systems and undergo testing before delivery to Yara Birkeland
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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the changed global outlook, Yara has decided to pause further development of the vessel and will assess next steps together with its partners.

Yara and technology company Kongsberg teamed up in 2017 with the ambition to build the world’s first autonomous and zero-emission container vessel. 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 in Norway.

navigation systems and undergo testing before delivery to Yara Birkeland_
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Yara Birkeland, a breakthrough fully electric, zero emissions and autonomous container ship, may have stolen industry headlines around the world, but it faces stiff competition for the Nor-Shipping trophy. Both Teekay’s ‘E-shuttle’ tanker concept and AET’s shuttle vessels utilise LNG and innovative Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Recovery Systems to create highly energy efficient and environmentally friendly fuel mix solutions, while Sovcomflot’s Gagarin Prospect is the world’s first Aframax tanker designed to use LNG as a primary fuel.

Defined by innovation

“This new award for Nor-Shipping 2019 has attracted an incredibly high standard of entrants, illustrating the ambition, innovation and drive for greener shipping that is redefining the industry at present,” he comments. “In all some 21 vessels made it through for consideration by our expert judging panel and, in a demonstration of their quality, each of those appeared on at least one of the judges individual shortlists. I think that is a first!

“However, these four bold, responsible and ground-breaking designs elevated themselves to another level. Each one would be a worthy winner in its own right, so it’ll be hugely exciting to see which one manages to claim the trophy and help start Nor-Shipping 2019 in style at our Opening Ceremony. Good luck to all the nominees.”

Yara Birkeland

Yara Birkeland is the world’s first fully electric, zero emissions and autonomous container ship. The move to all electric operations also extends onto land. Loading and unloading will be done automatically using electric cranes and equipment. The ship will also be equipped with an automatic mooring system. Powered by hydroelectric and a battery energy storage system, Yara Birkeland and the port infrastructure will produce no harmful greenhouse gasses for the entire operational lifecycle.

Under-construction by Norwegian shipbuilder Vard, Yara Birkeland will be one of the first Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) to enter commercial operations. The move to unmanned operations will be phased, giving Yara International and Kongsberg time to test the advanced systems that enable operation without a human at the helm. When delivered from the Yard early in 2020, Yara Birkeland will be a manned vessel. Autonomous functions will gradually be implemented, tested and validated, with the target of performing fully autonomous unmanned operations by 2022.


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One Comment

  1. The largest Norwegian boom since the “moon landing” project at Mongstad. Now the initiators blame the Corona epidemic for stopping their project. Hundreds of millions/maybe as much as a billion public money are being spent. Money that could have been used to improve the road standard. There must be legal reason for punishing the initiators of the project at least for their mis informant to the granting politicians. Their next step is probably in the years to come to seek Corona support io. to keep above afloat. Meantime 2 tracked railway for the cost of several hundred million NOK is now nearly completed and zero-emission trains can transport above cargo between Larvik and Skien 10 times faster than above crazy attempt. Hello! Norwegian Coastal Administration and the Norwegian Maritime Directorate, its is time to put all the case workers in the above autonomous project up for other useful work to improve the safety for crew onboard manned ships.

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