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Yara’s autonomous zero-emission container ship begins maiden voyage

The world’s first electric and self-propelled container ship, the Yara Birkeland, has departed for its maiden voyage in the Oslo fjord.

The Yara Birkeland has been developed in collaboration with the Kongsberg Group and was built by VARD with financial support from Enova.

The ship will be operated from Maasterlys’ monitoring and operation’s centre in Horten. Massterly is a joint venture between KONGSBERG and Wilhelmsen.

Now begins a two-year testing period of the technology that will make the ship self-propelled, and finally certified as an autonomous, all-electric container ship. It will then begin commercial operation from 2022.

The vessel is expected to cut 1,000 tonnes of CO2 and replace 40,000 trips by diesel-powered trucks a year, according to Svein Tore Holsether, CEO of Yara.

Enova, a government enterprise responsible for promotion of renewable energy, has allocated up to NOK 133.5 million to build the world’s first electric and autonomous container ship.

In parallel with the construction of Yara Birkeland, Yara has initiated the development of green ammonia as an emission-free fuel for shipping, through the newly started Yara Clean Ammonia.

On November 19, the Norwegian Prime Minister was given a tour by CEO of Yara, Svein Tore Holsether.

Friday morning, he welcomed Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and minister of Fisheries and Ocean Policy Bjørnar Skjæran on Yara Birkeland, after the ship had completed its maiden voyage to Oslo, Norway.

“We have been looking forward to this day for a long time. The Yara Birkeland will transport mineral fertiliser between Porsgrunn and Brevik and will contribute to significant emission cuts during transport. This an excellent example of green transition in practice, and we hope this ship will be the start of a new type of emission-free container ships. There are a lot of places in the world with congested roads that will benefit from a high-tech solution like this,” said Holsether.

“Norway is a major maritime nation, and other countries look to Norway for green solutions at sea. Yara Birkeland is the result of the extensive knowledge and experience we have available in the Norwegian maritime cluster and industry. The project demonstrates how we have developed world-leading innovation that contributes to the green transition and provides great export opportunities for Norwegian technology and industry,” said Geir Håøy, CEO of the Kongsberg Group.

“On the way to a low-emission society, transport emissions must come down to almost zero. To achieve that, we need projects that can transform the market – projects that have the potential to pave the way for others and increase the pace of change in their sector. This is exactly what we believe the world’s first autonomous and all-electric container ship will do,” said Nils Kristian Nakstad, CEO of Enova.

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