Yara Birkeland, the new Norwegian battery-electric container ship, is expected to become the first of its type that is also autonomous.

The chemical company Yara International announced the concept in 2017. The ship has been developed in partnership with technology company Kongsberg.

The hull was completed in Romania in February 2020 and then delivered to a Norwegian shipyard in 2020 for installation of various control- and navigation systems, as well as final testing. The launch was postponed due to COVID-19, but after the ship was handed over to Yara from the Norwegian shipyard Vard Brattvåg in November 2020, it's now on the final straight for autonomous operations.

The goal is to make it crewless (there will be always some sort of remote control by a supervisor), and at some point in the future automate also the loading and unloading.

Yara Birkeland is equipped with a pretty big battery pack of 7 MWh, supplied by Leclanché. Later this year it will haul containers between Herøya to Brevik in Norway.

The power output of the Yara Birkeland is also substantial - over 3 MW total (two 900 kW and two 700 kW units).

Once the first autonomous and electric ships will achieve their milestones, we guess that the industry will not hesitate to trigger many orders as it's an application that might be comprehensively electrified and automated, including basically the entire container port.

Yara Birkeland specs:

  • Batteries: 7 MWh
  • Propulsion:
    Azipull pods 2 x 900 kW
    Tunnel thrusters 2 x 700 kW
  • Capacity
    Cargo capacity 120 TEU
    Deadweight 3200 mt
  • Main particulars:
    LOA 80 m
    Beam 15 m
  • Depth 12 m:
    Draught (full) 6.3 m
    Eco speed 6-7 knots
    Max speed 13 knots

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