[video] Kongsberg, Yara plan autonomous electric ship
June 2, 2017
Norwegian firms plan battery-powered ship to manage regional deliveries
Norwegian fertiliser producer Yara and maritime engineering group Kongsberg will team up to realise an ambitious electric shipping project.
Yara is to commission a new vessel – named Yara Birkeland after the company’s founder – which it expects to be the first fully electric and autonomous container ship. The ship will be used to move products from Yara's Porsgrunn production plant to global shipping hubs in Brevik and Larvik.
Under current plans, operations would start in the latter half of 2018. The companies say this will reduce emissions and improve road safety by removing up to 40,000 truck journeys per year from the road.
Yara Birkeland will initially operate as a manned vessel, moving to remote operation in 2019, and is expected to be capable of performing fully autonomous operations from 2020. Electric cranes and carriers will also be used dockside to continue its zero-emission commitments.
"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 we ship products to customers around the world. With this new autonomous battery-driven container vessel we move transport from road to sea and thereby reduce noise and dust emissions,” added Yara president and CEO Svein Tore Holsether in a statement.
Meanwhile, Kongsberg Maritime is to develop and deliver the technologies used on Yara Birkeland, including the sensors and integration required for remote and autonomous operations, as well as the electric drive, battery and propulsion control systems (consisting of two Azimuth pods and two tunnel thrusters).
Details of the vessel are scant at present, as the two companies are only just moving into the design phase. However, Yara finance and logistics manager Bjørn Tore Orvik told InnovOil by phone that he expected the ship would run on a battery of around 3.5 to 4-MWh capacity. He added that the 70m long vessel would hold around 100-150 containers, making 1-2 shipments per day, five days week.
The Porsgrunn-Brevik leg is around 13 km or less – an easy feat for battery power alone. However, the challenge will be managing the longer trip to Larvik, a distance of around 30 nautical miles (55 km).
Orvik said that charging would take around 2 hours, and would be straightforward at the factory and port because the sites had enough spare grid capacity. While Yara’s initial investment will be high, he was also confident that the operating costs would be lower than those for the existing diesel trucks.
Fjording ahead Kongsberg is already heavily involved in the development autonomous shipping in Norway and further afield. In November 2016 it signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with UK-based Automated Ships to build the Hrönn – an innovation described as “the world’s first unmanned and fully automated vessel for offshore operations.” Automated Ships will act as project manager and ship-owner, while design and construction will be carried out in Norway in collaboration with shipyard Fjellstrand and Kongsberg. Certification body DNV GL and the Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA) will then oversee sea trials in Norway's Trondheim fjord – a newly designated test bed for automated vessels and technologies.
"By moving container transport from land to sea, Yara Birkeland is the start of a major contribution to fulfilling national and international environmental impact goals. The new concept is also a giant step forward towards increased seaborne transportation in general," said the company president and CEO Geir Håøy.
“Yara Birkeland will set the benchmark for the application of innovative maritime technology for more efficient and environmentally friendly shipping,” Håøy added.
The two companies will be designing the vessel over the next few months before embarking on a closed competition for a shipyard to build it. If all goes to plan, Yara’s fertiliser business is set to get even greener.