Yara Birkeland, the world’s first all-electric zero-emission container ship, has completed its first voyage to Norway. Birkeland traveled to about 8.7 miles (14 km) from Porsgrun to the port of Brevik, according to a press release from its creators, Yara.
Although the distance may seem short, as a major fertilizer producer, Yara makes up to 40,000 truck trips a year to transport its products to the Brevik export port. The container ship will replace next year’s truck trips in a move that is expected to reduce 1,000 tonnes of carbon emissions a year.
Work began on a 262-foot (80 m) long, fully electric container ship back in 2017. Designed to carry 103 containers per trip, the Birkeland is powered by a 7MWh battery and can travel at a maximum speed of 15 knots. Financial support for the construction of the first container ship of its kind came from Enova, a Norwegian government company that promotes the use of renewable energy. Enova provided a grant of NOK 133 million (USD 14.94 million) for the construction of a self-propelled Birkeland.
Technology inputs such as sensors that can detect objects such as kayaks in the water and integrations for autonomous operations were provided by Kongsberg. In future, the ship will be able to load and unload its cargo, charge its battery and move without human intervention, Reuters reported. From next year, the container will make two trips a week with a manual crew. The self-navigation technology will be tested for a period of two years, after which the ship will be certified autonomous and the bridge will be removed from the ship.
In addition to cleaning up its emissions from transport, Yara, one of Norway’s largest carbon emitters, also plans to make green ammonia. As a fertilizer producer, Yara needs large amounts of ammonia, which contributes just over one percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, Yara said in a statement. The fertilizer company also wants to use its green ammonia as fuel for ships. And we would like that to happen.