10 May 2017

New All Electric and Autonomous Container Freight Vessel Proposed to Cut Road Haulage Journeys  

Joint Agreement Signed to Build Cargo Ship of the Future

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Shipping News Feature NORWAY – Chemical company Yara International, and technology group Konsberg Maritime, have entered into an agreement to build what the two Norwegian companies say will be the world's first fully electric and autonomous container ship with zero emissions. With operations planned to start in the latter half of 2018, the pair claim the revolutionary vessel could lead to a reduction of up to 40,000 road haulage journeys a year in populated urban areas, reducing NOx and CO2 emissions and improve road safety.

Named Yara Birkeland after Yara's founder, the scientist and innovator Kristian Birkeland, an extraordinary man who was nominated for the Nobel Prize no less than seven times, the new vessel will apparently be the world's first fully electric container feeder, and will begin operations by shipping products from Yara's Porsgrunn production plant to Brevik and Larvik in Norway. The biggest problem for any vessel owner is securing sufficient tonnage to make it worthwhile, a problem the new owners do not currently have with their existing volume of in house traffic.

The Yara Birkeland will initially operate as a manned vessel, with plans to transfer it to remote operation in 2019 and with expectations that it will be capable of performing fully autonomous operations from 2020. The partners say the new zero-emission vessel will be a game-changer for global maritime transport, contributing substantially to meet the UN sustainability goals. Svein Tore Holsether, President and CEO of Yara, said:

"As a leading global fertiliser 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. We are proud to work with Konsberg to realise 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.”

Konsberg will be responsible for development and delivery of all key enabling technologies on the Yara Birkeland, including the sensors and integration required for remote and autonomous operations, in addition to the electric drive, battery and propulsion control systems. Geir Håøy, President and CEO of Konsberg, commented:

"By moving container transport from land to sea, the 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.

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

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