This self-driving, electric cargo ship will soon take to the sea


The Yara Birkeland will transport goods between several ports in Norway. — AFP Relaxnews

Claimed to be the world’s first fully autonomous electric container ship, the Yara Birkeland hails from Norway.

According to the firm behind it, the vessel should replace about 40,000 truck trips per year and therefore have a massive effect on reducing CO2 emissions. Its commercial operation is scheduled to start at the end of 2021.

The Yara Birkeland measures 80 meters long, 15 meters wide and 12 meters deep. It can carry up to 120 20-foot containers. While it is capable of reaching a maximum speed of 13 knots, its cruising speed is estimated at six to seven knots. As for its range, it should not exceed 65 miles, the equivalent of 120km.

When launched, the unmanned vessel is expected to operate exclusively in Norwegian waters and transport chemicals and fertilisers between several Norwegian ports. The Norwegian authorities have already granted it permission to sail.

Although it left the shipyard in 2020, its commercial operation is not expected to begin before the end of 2021. In part this delay is due to the Covid-19 crisis, but also to desire to elaborate a complete logistical solution that is fully autonomous on land as well, for instance for all the aspects related to loading its cargo.

This project was financed by Yara International, a Norwegian chemical company specialised in the manufacture and distribution of fertilisers. The company named the vessel after its founder, Kristian Birkeland. If it proves a success, the Yare Birkeland could inspire similar transport innovations worldwide. – AFP Relaxnews

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