The Yara Birkeland, an 80 m long battery-electric container ship, on November 18, 2021 took its first and only trip to Oslo before it is put into regular operation in Norway.

It's a groundbreaking project, as it not only electrifies transport of containers, but is focused on achieving full autonomous operation over a two-year test period. Commercial operation will start in 2022.

"The world's first electric and self-propelled container ship – Yara Birkeland – has departed for its maiden voyage in the Oslo fjord."

The chemical company Yara International intends to automate all aspects of the transport, including an automatic mooring system and loading/unloading. As of today, the ship still requires a crew to operate.

"Now begins a two-year testing period of the technology that will make the ship self-propelled, and finally certified as an autonomous, all-electric container ship."

The ship can take up to 120 20-foot containers with mineral fertilizer and with a 7 MWh battery should easily cover the route between Porsgrunn to Brevik in Norway (probably about 10 miles).

With the Yara Birkeland, the company hopes to eliminate about 40,000 trips by diesel-powered trucks a year.

The project was financially supported by Enova, a Norwegian government enterprise responsible for the promotion of renewable energy, which allocated some 133.5 million NOK (US$15.2 million).

The outcome of this project will be crucial as to whether we will see more electrification of river and sea transport.

Yara Birkeland specs:

  • Batteries: 7 MWh
  • Propulsion:
    Azipull pods 2 x 900 kW
    Tunnel thrusters 2 x 700 kW
  • Capacity
    Cargo capacity 120 TEU (120 20-foot containers)
    Deadweight 3200 mt
  • Main particulars:
    LOA 80 m (lenght)
    Beam 15 m
  • Depth 12 m:
    Draught (full) 6.3 m
    Eco speed 6-7 knots
    Max speed 13 knots
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