Yara introduces the world’s first autonomous electric container ship

By Victoria Klesty

OSLO (Reuters) – The world’s first fully electric, self-steering container ship owned by fertilizer maker Yara is preparing to cross Norway’s south coast and do its part in the country’s plans to clean up its industry.

The Yara Birkeland, an 80-meter-long so-called feeder, is to replace truck transport between the Yara plant in Porsgrunn in southern Norway and the export port of Brevik, about 14 km away, from next year.

It will reduce 1,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year, the equivalent of 40,000 diesel-powered road trips, and is expected to be fully autonomous in two years.

For Yara, this means reducing CO2 emissions at its Porsgrunn plant, one of Norway’s largest sources of CO2 https://www.reuters.com/article/yara-esg-idUSKBN28H1FM, said Chief Executive Svein Tore Holsether.

“Now we have made this technological leap to show that it is possible and I think there are so many routes in the world that it is possible to implement the same type of ship,” he told Reuters.

Kongsberg was built by Vard Norway and provided the key technology, including the sensors and integration required for remote and autonomous operation.

“The point here is not to replace the sailors, but the truck drivers,” said Jostein Braaten, project manager for the Yara ship, at the ship’s bridge, which will be removed when the ship is fully automated.

The ship will load and unload its cargo, charge its batteries and navigate without human intervention.

Sensors will be able to quickly spot and understand objects like kayaks in the water so the ship can decide what action to take to avoid hitting anything, Braaten said.

The system should be an improvement over a manual system, he added.

“We have taken away the human element that is also the cause of many of the accidents we see today,” said Braaten.

The ship, which will initially make two trips a week, can transport 120 20-foot containers of fertilizer at the same time.

It’s powered by batteries from Swiss Leclanche that pack 7 megawatt hours across eight battery rooms, which is the equivalent of 100 Tesla cars, Braaten said.

(Adaptation by Elaine Hardcastle)

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