Yara International, a manufacturer of nitrogen fertilizers in Norway, is trying to pave the way to becoming “green” by swapping its entire fleet of trucks across the country for an electric freighter that, in addition to not emitting carbon to the atmosphere, sails to their destinations fully autonomously.
Since 2017, when the Norwegian government began testing autonomous ships within its maritime space, Yara began plans to have its own electric freighter. The task was handed over to Kongsberg Gruppen, a provider of high-tech solutions for the marine industry. After some delays due to the originality of the project and also the covid-19 pandemic, the Yara Birkeland was finally delivered in November last year.
Although it lost the title of first autonomous ship (to a Finnish ferry launched in 2018), the manufacturers guarantee that it is the first all-electric container ship in the world. Yara Birkeland’s ultimate goal is to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide, a highly toxic pollutant, and carbon dioxide, in addition to eliminating 40,000 truck trips a year.
The environmental impact of Yara Birkeland
Source: Knut Brevik Andersen/Yara/DisclosureSource: Knut Brevik Andersen/Yara
According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the means of transport are currently responsible for 27% of all carbon emissions in the world. Most of them (80%) are made by road transport, powered by fossil fuels. Today, the effort to electrify vehicles mainly affects the land and air transport sectors. Hence the importance of pioneering the electric freighter.
The Yara Birkeland is expected to set sail later this year, at a speed of up to 24 km/h, powered by a 7 MWh battery, carrying 103 standard-size containers. His maiden voyage will be to the city of Brevik, on the south coast of the country. With no crew, the ship will be monitored by three control centers on land.