The world’s first autonomous and electric container vessel is one step closer to launch, as Yara signs a deal with Vard worth approximately NOK 250 million to build the vessel. 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. Now the shipyard has been selected and construction will begin.
“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 customisaided ship building with leading innovation and will deliver a game-changing vessel which will help us lower our emissions and contribute to feeding the world while protecting the planet,” says Svein Tore Holsether, President and CEO of Yara.
Vard is a global shipbuilder of specialised vessels. 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.
Roy Reite, CEO and Executive Director of Vard, comments, “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. It is a pleasure to welcome Yara and Kongsberg to Vard, and we look forward to working closely with all parties involved.”
The project has received NOK 133.6 million in support from the Norwegian government enterprise Enova. Prime Minister Erna Solberg was present for the signing at the ship yard in Brevik, Norway.
“This is a good example of how Norwegian industry can collaborate to create new solutions and green jobs. Yara, Kongsberg and VARD have built on their knowledge about technology, logistics and ship building with an ambition to create sustainable innovation together. The result is exciting pioneer projects like this one. I am proud that the Government has supported the development of Yara Birkeland through Enova and send my best wishes for the construction,” says Prime Minister Solberg.
Technology company Kongsberg is a key partner in the project, responsible for the enabling technologies including the sensors and integration required for remote and autonomous operations. The company is leading the way in an industry transformation which at first will impact short sea and inland waterway operations and holds potential for further segments.
“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,” says Geir Håøy, CEO of Kongsberg.
The project was initiated to improve the logistics at Yara’s Porsgrunn fertilizer plant. 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 the company ships products to customers around the world. With this new autonomous battery-driven container vessel Yara moves transport from road to sea and thereby reduces noise and dust emissions, improves the safety of local roads, and reduces NOx and CO2 emissions.