Norwegian chemical firm Yara International has developed an autonomous electric cargo ship, which is scheduled to make its maiden voyage with no crew members aboard later this year.
Yara, a major shipper of bulk cargoes, created a subsidiary, Yara Marine Technologies, to address toxic emissions from marine diesel engines. In 2017, it began working on an autonomous, fully electric ship that could eliminate emissions altogether.
CNN reports that the Yara Birkeland will make its first autonomous voyage, between the Norwegian towns Herøya and Brevik, later this year. There will be no human crew aboard, but the ship will be closely monitored from three onshore control centers.
Loading and unloading the ship will require humans for now. However, according to Plant Manager Yara Jon Sletten, these operations will eventually be turned over to autonomous technology. This will require autonomous cranes and straddle carriers to help move containers on and off the ship.
The Yara Birkeland features 7 MWh of battery capacity, which powers two 900 kW Azipull pods and two 700 kW tunnel thrusters, delivering a top speed of 13 knots. The current cargo capacity is 120 Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEU) or sixty 40-foot shipping containers.
Sletten says the electric cargo ship will be charged at the quayside “before sailing to container harbors along the coast and then back again, replacing 40,000 truck journeys a year.”