World’s first autonomous and electric container ship is one step closer to launch as yard is chosen

The world’s first autonomous and electric container ship is one step closer to launch, with Norwegian agricultural company Yara signing a deal with Vard worth approximately NOK 250 million ($30 million) to build the vessel.

Vard will deliver the 120-TEU Yara Birkeland for launch in early 2020 from its Brevik yard in Norway, and the vessel will gradually move from manned operation to fully autonomous operation by 2022. The hull will be delivered from Vard Braila in Romania.

The project was initiated in an effort to improve the logistics at Yara’s Porsgrunn fertilizer plant. Every day, more than 100 diesel truck journeys are needed to transport products from Yara’s Porsgrunn plant to ports in Brevik and Larvik where the company ships products to customers around the world. Replacing 40,000 truck journeys a year, Yara Birkeland will reduce NOx and CO2 emissions and improve road safety in a densely populated urban area.

The project has received NOK 133.6 million ($15.8 million) in support from the Norwegian government enterprise ENOVA, and Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg was present for the contract signing at the shipyard in Brevik.

In May 2017, Yara and technology company Kongsberg announced a partnership to build the vessel. Kongsberg is responsible for the enabling technologies including the sensors and integration required for remote and autonomous operations.

Kalmar will deliver autonomous equipment, software and services for a unique, fully digitalized container handling solution at the Porsgrunn quayside in Norway to support Yara Birkeland operations. The company will provide the autonomous loading and unloading system for Yara Birkeland, as well as transportation between the fertilizer production facilities and the quay. The system will be implemented in phases, with the level of automation gradually increasing over time.

The project involves several firsts for Kalmar including the first fully automated rail-mounted gantry crane for vessel loading, unloading and container storage management. Additionally, the Kalmar FastCharge AutoStrads will drive along the public roads in the Porsgrunn industrial park, which is also used by normal road traffic.

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