Fertiliser shipper Yara has signed a deal with Vard shipyard to build the world’s first autonomous and electric container vessel.
The deal – worth approximately Nkr250M (US$29.6M) – will see Vard will deliver Yara Birkeland for launch in early 2020 and the vessel will gradually move from manned operation to fully autonomous operation by 2022.
In May 2017, Yara and technology company Kongsberg announced a partnership to build the world’s first autonomous, electric 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.
“A vessel like Yara Birkeland has never been built before, and we rely on teaming up with partners with an entrepreneurial mindset and cutting-edge expertise. Vard combines experience in customised shipbuilding with leading innovation and will deliver a game-changing vessel that will help us lower our emissions and contribute to feeding the world while protecting the planet,” said Yara president and chief executive Svein Tore Holsether.
Yara Birkeland is scheduled to be delivered from Vard Brevik in Norway in Q1 2020. The hull will be delivered from Vard Braila in Romania.
Vard chief executive and executive director Roy Reite commented “We are honoured to be chosen as Yara’s partner in this innovative and exciting project. With a longstanding experience in building state-of-the-art and tailor-made specialised vessels, we are excited to be given the opportunity to build the world’s first autonomous and electric-driven container vessel.”
The project has received Nkr133.6M (US$15.6M) in support from the Norwegian government enterprise ENOVA. Prime Minister Erna Solberg was present for the signing at the shipyard in Brevik, Norway.
Kongsberg is a key partner in the project, responsible for the enabling technologies including the sensors and integration required for remote and autonomous operations.
“Yara Birkeland represents an important next step for the entire maritime industry, representing a major technological and sustainable advancement. The Norwegian maritime cluster has taken a leading position within technology, design, legislation, testing and all other aspects of the development,” said Kongsberg chief executive Geir Håøy.
A joint statement from Kongsberg, Yara and Vard explained that the project was launched in an effort to improve the logistics at Yara’s Porsgrunn fertiliser plant. Every day, more than 100 diesel truck journeys are needed to transport products from the plant to ports in Brevik and Larvik where the company ships products to customers around the world. With this new autonomous battery-driven container vessel Yara will move transport from road to sea and reduce noise and dust emissions, improves the safety of local roads, and reduces NOx and CO2 emissions.