Vard Selected to Build Autonomous Ship Yara Birkeland
Norwegian shipbuilder VARD has secured a contract worth approximately NOK 250 million ($29.5 million) to build the world’s first autonomous and electric container vessel, Yara Birkeland. VARD will deliver the groundbreaking ship for launch in early 2020, and the vessel will gradually move from manned operation to remote-controlled voyages and then fully autonomous sailing by 2022.
Yara Birkeland is the result of a partnership between Norwegian chemicals company YARA and technology firm KONGSBERG, who announced their plans for the vessel in May 2017.
Now with specialist shipbuilder VARD signed onto the project, it was revealed today that the battery-driven container vessel will be delivered from Vard Brevik in Norway in the first quarter of 2020. The hull will be delivered from Vard Braila in Romania.
“A vessel like Yara Birkeland has never been built before, and we rely on teaming up with partners with an entrepreneurial mindset and cutting edge expertise,” said Svein Tore Holsether, President and CEO of YARA. “VARD combines experience in customized ship building with leading innovation, and will deliver a game-changing vessel which will help us lower our emissions, and contribute to feeding the world while protecting the planet.”
The project has received NOK 133.6 million ($16.1 million) in support from the Norwegian government enterprise ENOVA. “This is a good example of how Norwegian industry can collaborate to create new solutions and green jobs,” said Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who was present for the today;s contract signing at the shipyard in Brevik, Norway. “YARA, KONGSBERG and VARD have built on their knowledge about technology, logistics and shipbuilding with an ambition to create sustainable innovation together. The result is exciting pioneer projects like this one.”
Yara Birkeland, named after Yara’s founder Kristian Birkeland, has been designed at Norwegian design and engineering company Marin Teknikk. A scale model of the autonomous and fully electric container vessel has undergone extensive testing in Norway.
KONGSBERG, a key partner in the project, is responsible for the enabling technologies including the sensors and integration required for remote and autonomous operations. The company is leading the way in an industry transformation which at first will impact short sea and inland waterway operations, and holds potential for further segments.
Geir Håøy, CEO of KONGSBERG, said, “Yara Birkeland represents an important next step for the entire maritime industry, representing a major technological and sustainable advancement. The Norwegian maritime cluster has taken a leading position within technology, design, legislation, testing and all other aspects of the development.”
The project was initiated in an effort to improve the logistics at Yara’s Porsgrunn fertilizer plant. Every day, more than 100 diesel truck journeys are needed to transport products from Porsgrunn to ports in Brevik and Larvik. With this new vessel, YARA moves transport from road to sea, replacing 40,000 truck journeys a year and thereby slashing noise and dust emissions, improving road safety in a densely populated urban area, and reducing NOx and CO2 emissions.