World’s first electric containership completes maiden voyage

(OSLO, Norway) — The world’s first electric and self-propelled containership, Yara Birkeland, has completed its maiden voyage in the Oslo fjord. On Friday, Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store was given a tour of the vessel by the CEO of Yara, Svein Tore Holsether.

“We are proud to be able to showcase the world’s first fully electric and self-propelled containership. It will cut 1,000 tonnes of CO2and replace 40,000 trips by diesel-powered trucks a year,” said Holsether.

Yara Birkeland, which has already received wide coverage in Norwegian and international media, has been developed in collaboration with the Kongsberg Group. The ship was built by Vard with financial support from Enova, and will be in commercial operation from 2022.

Yara Birkeland
The 262-foot Yara Birkeland transits off Brevik, Norway, in December 2020. The all-electric containership, built by Vard for the Norwegian fertilizer company Yara International, is scheduled to gradually shift from manned operations and become autonomous. Kongsberg photo

“We have been looking forward to this day for a long time,” said Holsether. “The Yara Birkeland will transport mineral fertilizer 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 containerships. There are a lot of places in the world with congested roads that will benefit from a high-tech solution like this.”

A two-year testing period has now begun for the technology that will make the ship self-propelled and finally certified as an autonomous, all-electric containership.

Yara Birkeland is a collaborative project between several partners, where Kongsberg is responsible for the development and delivery of all newly developed technology on the ship. The ship will be operated from Maasterlys’ monitoring and operation’s center in Horten. Massterly is a joint venture between Kongsberg and Wilhelmsen.

“Norway is a major maritime nation, and other countries look to Norway for green solutions at sea,” said Geir Haoy, CEO of the Kongsberg Group. “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.”

Enova, a government enterprise responsible for promotion of renewable energy, has allocated up to 133.5 million Norwegian krone ($15 million U.S.) to build the world’s first electric and autonomous containership.

“On the way to a low-emission society, transport emissions must come down to almost zero,” said Nils Kristian Nakstad, CEO of Enova. “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 containership will do.”

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.

“Renewable energy was our starting point in 1905. Now, ammonia can bring us back to our roots. Our large shipping network and existing infrastructure means that ammonia has the potential to become the leading fuel for long-distance shipping globally,” said Magnus Krogh Ankarstrand, CEO of Yara Clean Ammonia.

As the world’s largest producer of fertilizers, Yara relies on ammonia for manufacture, and to help feed an ever-growing population. At the same time, current ammonia production represents 2 percent of the world’s fossil energy consumption. This corresponds to about 1.2 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

“As the world’s largest producer of ammonia, Yara has launched an aggressive plan of international scale, both to remove current emissions and to establish the production of new, clean ammonia,” said Ankarstrand.

– Kongsberg Maritime

By Professional Mariner Staff