The Norwegian company Yara Birkeland has created and built what it calls the world’s first zero-emissions, autonomous cargo ship. The first autonomous ferry was launched in Finland in 2018, but with this container ship Yara Birkeland opens the era of the fully electric autonomous shipping.
The electric autonomous ship will complete its first journey between the two Norwegian ports Heroya and Brevik before the end of 2021, with a reduced crew on board in order to test the implemented autonomous systems. All ship movements will be monitored from three on-shore data control centers. That ship concept was introduced in 2017 in collaboration with technology firm Kongsberg Maritime and shipbuilder Vard. With a capacity of 103 containers and a top speed of 13 knots, powered by a 7 MWh battery, the zero-emissions container-ship will be replacing in practice 40,000 truck journeys a year.
The crewless ship means it will be more cost effective to operate and with the development of autonomous cranes and straddle carriers which are placing containers onto ships, with loading and dis-loading, mooring operations, berthing and unberthing the vessel, the shipping industry can turn into completely autonomous one with the implementation of the autonomous technologies. Of course, many challenges (like navigation in large ports) are to be overcome before autonomous ships can be used for commercial long sea journeys, but we may evidence many more elements of AI technology used on commercial ships in the future.
Yara Birkeland Company was established to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions, which are toxic pollutants and greenhouse gases, as well as carbon dioxide emissions, in addition to facilitating traffic by shifting freight away from roads to sea transportation. According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the shipping industry currently accounts for between 2.5 and 3 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions.