Yara Birkeland — The world’s first autonomous ship set to launch in 2018

It’s hard to turn on your TV or tune in to a technology focused blog or forum without hearing talk of a newly built driverless vehicle, with Tesla, Google, Audi and even Apple working on variations of the technology. In a recent change of pace, innovators in other transportation sectors have shown a willingness to adopt the principle of driverless transport vehicles, with two companies; Yara which is a fertilizer developer and distributor as well as Konsberg, a developer of maritime technology (both based in Norway) taking an interest in the production of a vessel that require less human control or guidance, gradually intending on making crews on ships a thing of the past by the year 2020. The new ship Yara Birkeland besides being autonomous is also electrical and therefore will cut down on fuel consumption as well as pollution.

Yara Birkeland is the World’s first autonomous ship, and it is set to launch soon!

Yara Birkeland - The world's first zero emission, autonomous container feeder

Yara Birkeland — The world’s first zero emission, autonomous container feeder that is set to disrupt the world of sea transportation by 2018. The development is in top gear in Norway, towards its launch.

Plans for the Yara Birkeland development were recently announced on the 9th of May this year with the ship described on the Konsberg website as the world’s first truly electric and automated container ship with zero emissions. Designed by Marine Teknikk and named after the Yara founder, Kristian Birkeland, the ship is expected to cut down on the fuel consumption required by most ships at sea, reduce CO2 emissions as well as remove about 40,000 truck journeys. With Konsberg responsible for developing key technical functions of the new ship, production cost is minimized.

The ship itself is pretty small in terms of physical standards of today’s carrier ships, with a cargo capacity of 100–150 TEU and Length overall (LOA) of more than 70 meters. The open top container is also equipped with Electric propulsion and sensors like cameras, Radar, AIS and IR camera that aid in its unmanned trips on the seas.

The ship is expected to make its journeys over an area 12 nautical miles from the Norwegian coast, with three different control centres set up to manage the vessel. The centres, controlled by both Yara and Konsberg will handle emergencies, navigation, surveillance, maintenance and decision support as well with the ship expected to perform as much as 2 tours per day. While at ports located at Heroya, Breivik and Larvik, loading and unloading will also be done automatically using electric equipment. The ship will have an automatic mooring system too.

While construction of the ship is still underway, all parties involved seem to be very enthusiastic about the expected impact of the vessel on sea transport, with Yara president Svein Tore Holsether speaking excitedly about the possibilities opened up by the Yara Birkeland.

“With this new autonomous battery driven container vessel we move transport from road to sea and thereby reduce noise and dust emissions, improve safety of local roads and reduce NOx and CO2 emissions” he says.

Konsberg have also expressed delight at the partnership and the potential of developing the world’s first commercial autonomous shipping vessel, with the partnership expected to set the pace for more similar minded marine technology to follow.

Yara Birkeland will hold the record for been the first world autonomous ship ever to be built. But currently, it is still under development in Norway.

Watch how Yara Birkeland, the world’s first autonomous ship would work in real-time in the video below.

What do you think about the prospect Yara Birkeland? Let me know about it in the comment below.