Maiden TripAlthough it is not the first autonomous ship in the world as such, it is the first electric vessel capable of transporting a large number of containers. The first crew-less voyage will take place between the ports of Brevik and Herøya –very close to each other– and it will be monitored from the ground from three data control centers. The Yara Birkeland is 80 meters long and sports a 15-meter beam. It reaches a top speed of 13 knots, taken from its 7 MWh battery, “about a thousand times the capacity of one electrical car,” Jon Sletten, plant manager for Yara’s factory in Porsgrunn, Norway, told CNN. The ship will be able to carry between 103 and 120 containers, and with its introduction to the market soon the company is aiming to reduce nitrogen and carbon dioxide emissions –the main culprits of the increase of the greenhouse effect on the planet. According to Yara International, the Yara Birkeland would replace the trips of about 40,000 trucks on the road per year.
A New ModelThe pioneering vessel flags a huge challenge in the shipping industry and its fight for the planet to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. At present, sea trade is responsible for 3% of the world’s harmful emissions.
Likewise, the company hopes to advance its technology to make the loading and unloading process of the vessel even more autonomous –as well as for docking and mooring– Yara International wants to mechanize each process.
Despite all these advances and innovations –which will pave the view to an electric future in global sea trade– some experts prefer to be cautious about it.
Rudy Negenborn, a maritime and transport technology professor at Delft University of Technology told CNN: “At some point, these ships will have to start interacting with each other so they can exchange information and create paths that are not conflicting.”
“The Yara Birkeland operates along the Norwegian coast, but if it went further, then it might encounter other territorial regions with perhaps different rules and regulations that need to be met,” says Negenborn. “Who is liable if something goes wrong?”