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Maritime Digitalisation & Communications

Vard set to build world’s first autonomous ship

Thu 16 Aug 2018 by Martyn Wingrove

Vard set to build world’s first autonomous ship
Norway prime minister Erna Solberg operates a model of Yara Birkeland during the contract signing ceremony at Vard's shipyard in Brevik

Construction is about to begin on the first autonomous and electric commercial ship for a Norwegian project. This can commence after shipbuilder Vard Holdings won a NKr250M (US$30M) contract to build container ship Yara Birkeland for fertiliser group Yara.

Vard has agreed to build this self-piloting and zero-emissions ship at its shipyard in Romania and Brevik, Norway, for delivery that is anticipated to be in 2020.

Yara plans to use Yara Birkeland to transport fertiliser products from its plant in Porsgrunn to the ports of Brevik and Larvik where it ships products onwards to customers around the world.

This Norwegian group expects Yara Birkeland will remove 100 diesel lorry journeys from Norway’s roads per day by using a battery-driven container vessel, reducing NOx and CO2 emissions and improving safety on local roads.

Yara Birkeland’s hull will be built at Vard Braila shipyard in Romania and transported to Brevik for further construction and outfitting. It is expected to enter service in Q1 2020. Then the vessel will gradually move from manned operation to fully autonomous operation by 2022.

Prime minister of Norway Erna Solberg was present at the shipbuilding contract in Brevik on 15 August. She said this project was a “good example of how Norwegian industry can collaborate to create new solutions”.

Ms Solberg added that Yara, Kongsberg and Vard had “built on their knowledge about technology, logistics and ship building with an ambition to create sustainable innovation together.”

This Yara Birkeland project is supported by the Norwegian Government with NKr133.6M from the state’s Enova enterprise fund.

Kongsberg is a key partner in this project, as it will provide the sensors, onboard technology and integration required for remote and autonomous operations.

Its involvement in Yara Birkeland was announced in May 2017, when Yara initially expected to have the ship in operation in 2019.

Kongsberg will be working with Wilhelmsen, in the Massterly joint venture, to manage autonomous ships, which includes using land-based control centres to monitor and operate them.


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