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Norwegian firm plans autonomous, electric-powered boxship

By Chris Dupin, Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Norwegian fertilizer manufacturer Yara International is planning to build a small, battery-powered containership with capacity for between 100 TEUs and 120 TEUs to move containers from fertilizer its factory to the nearby ocean ports of Brevik and Larvik.

Yara International ASA, a Norwegian fertilizer manufacturer, is entering into a partnership with Kongsberg, a maritime technology company, to build an electrically-powered, autonomous cargo ship, the company said Wednesday.

The vessel, « Yara Birkeland, » will be used to move 20-foot containers filled with NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium) fertilizer from Yara’s production plant in Porsgrunn, Norway to nearby ports of Brevik and Larvik.

In Brevik and Larvik, the containers will be loaded on ocean vessels for shipment to customers in locations such China, Brazil and Africa, said Kristin Nordal, a spokesman for Yara.

The battery-powered ship will have a capacity of about 3,500 deadweight tons and be able to carry about 100 TEUs to 120 TEUs. The ship’s batteries will recharged while in port with shore power.

The company has not yet selected a shipyard to build the vessel, but believes it will cost about 100 million Norwegian krone ($12 million).  Yara expects to begin operating the ship in late 2018. Initially a small crew will be onboard to operate the ship, but the company expects it to be fully autonomous by 2019 or 2020.


Bjorn Tore Orvik, finance and logistics manager for Yara, said the company is working with government officials in Norway to get all approvals for what it says would be the world’s first autonomous and zero emissions ship.

Orvik said the ship would travel about six nautical miles to Brevik and 32 nautical miles to Larvik. The ship would have a top speed of 12 to 15 knots, but Orvik said the aim is to have the ship operate more slowly to conserve fuel, making one or two round trips each day. While some of the voyage is in a protected fjord, the ship will need to travel along Norway’s south coast where Orvik said the seas can be quite rough.

According to Svein Tore Holsether, president and chief executive officer of Yara, the ship will eliminate the need for 100 diesel truck trips currently needed to transport products from the Porsgrunn plant to Brevik and Larvik.

“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, » said Holsether.

Kongberg will be responsible for development and delivery of all key enabling technologies on that ship, including the sensors and integration required for remote and autonomous operations, in addition to the electric drive, battery and propulsion control systems.


Source : American Shipper