Goal is to reduce greenhouse gases, move freight from roads to sea; first commercial voyage expected by year-end
A Norwegian company has created what it calls the world’s first zero-emission, autonomous cargo ship.
If all goes to plan, the ship will make its first journey between two Norwegian towns before the end of the year, with a reduced crew on board to test the autonomous systems. Eventually, all movements will be monitored from three onshore data control centers.
It’s not the first autonomous ship — an autonomous ferry launched in Finland in 2018 — but it is the first fully electric container ship, say its makers. Developed by chemical company Yara International, the Yara Birkeland was designed to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides, which are toxic pollutants and greenhouse gases, and carbon dioxide, as well as moving freight away from roads to the sea.
The shipping industry currently accounts for between 2.5% and 3% of global greenhouse gases emissions, according to the International Maritime Organization.
Nearly all of Norway’s electricity is generated by hydroelectric power, which is generally considered to have much lower carbon emissions than burning fossil fuels, although it still produces greenhouse gases.
First conceptualized in 2017, the ship was created in partnership with technology firm Kongsberg Maritime and shipbuilder Vard. Capable of carrying 103 containers and with a top speed of 13 knots, it will use a 7 MWh battery, with “about a thousand times the capacity of one electrical car,” according to Jon Sletten, plant manager for Yara’s factory in Porsgrunn, Norway.
He says it will be charged at the quayside “before sailing to container harbors along the coast and then back again, replacing 40,000 truck journeys a year.”
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