Covid-19 puts development of first autonomous container ship on hold

The project that was to lead to the world’s first autonomous and zero-emission container vessel, the Yara Birkeland, has been paused due to the corona crisis. The vessel was launched in Romania in February 2020 and was on its way to Norway for outfitting.

The vessel is expected to arrive at Norwegian shipbuilder Vard this month. Original plan was for the ship to be fitted with various control and navigation systems here after which trials were to take place before delivery to Yara.

The company states on its website: ‘Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the changed global outlook, Yara has decided to pause further development of the vessel and will assess next steps together with its partners.’

Yara and technology company Kongsberg teamed up in 2017 with the ambition to build the world’s first autonomous and zero-emission container vessel. Replacing 40,000 truck journeys a year, the 120 TEU open hatch container feeder Yara Birkeland would reduce NOx and CO2 emissions and improve road safety in a densely populated urban area in Norway. The ship was to be fully powered by batteries with a capacity of 7 megawatt hours.

Picture: Yara Birkeland vessel launched to sea.

Author: Mariska Buitendijk

Mariska Buitendijk is one of SWZ|Maritime's journalists as well as the magazine's copy editor.