Norway Builds World’s First Emissions-free Container Ship

OSLO, Norway, January 5, 2022 (ENS) – Norway’s new Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre has taken a guided tour of the world’s first electric, self-propelled container ship, the Yara Birkeland, calling it, “The ship that represents the future.”

The Prime Minister said, “This is very historic because here comes new technology that makes it possible to move goods away from the road. Lots of vehicles away from the road, lots of emissions are gone, and there is safe transport.”

The ship’s tour was given by Svein Holsether, president and CEO of the world’s largest producer of fertilizers, the Norwegian company Yara International which owns the unique ship.

“We are proud to be able to showcase the world’s first fully electric and self-propelled container ship. It will cut 1,000 tonnes of CO2 and replace 40,000 trips by diesel-powered trucks a year, said Holsether as the Yara Birkeland completed its maiden voyage in November in the Oslo fjord.

“This is the start of something that will change transport in the world, and take us in the direction of cutting emissions, so this has incredible potential and is very promising,” Prime Minister Støre said.

In parallel with the construction of Yara Birkeland, Yara has initiated the development of green ammonia as an emission-free fuel for shipping, through the newly started Yara Clean Ammonia.

From left: Norway’s Minister of Fisheries and Ocean Policy Bjørnar Skjæran, CEO Yara Svein Tore Holsether, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, CEO Kongsberg Gruppen Geir Håøy. November 19, 2021, Oslo, Norway (Photo courtesy Yara International)

“Renewable energy was our starting point in 1905. Now, ammonia can bring us back to our roots,” said Magnus Krogh Ankarstrand, CEO of Yara Clean Ammonia. “Our large shipping network and existing infrastructure means that ammonia has the potential to become the leading fuel for long-distance shipping globally.”

As the world’s largest producer of fertilizers, Yara relies on ammonia to make fertilizer, and to help feed an ever-growing population. At the same time, current ammonia production represents two percent of the world’s fossil energy consumption. This corresponds to about 1.2 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

“As the world’s largest producer of ammonia, Yara has launched an offensive plan of international scale, both to remove current emissions and to establish the production of new, clean ammonia,” says Ankarstrand.

The Yara Birkeland was developed in collaboration with the Kongsberg Group, a high-tech systems company partly owned by the Norwegian Government. The ship was built by VARD, a full-service designer of specialized vessels, with financial support from the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, Enova.

Enova, a government enterprise responsible for promotion of renewable energy, has allocated up to 133.5 million Norwegian Kroner (US$15 million) to build the world’s first electric and autonomous container ship.

Nils Kristian Nakstad, CEO of Enova, said, “On the way to a low-emission society, transport emissions must come down to almost zero. To achieve that, we need projects that can transform the market – projects that have the potential to pave the way for others and increase the pace of change in their sector. This is exactly what we believe the world’s first autonomous and all-electric container ship will do.”

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

“We have been looking forward to this day for a long time,” Holsether said. “Yara Birkeland will transport mineral fertilizer between Porsgrunn and Brevik and will contribute to significant emission cuts during transport.”

“This is an excellent example of green transition in practice, and we hope this ship will be the start of a new type of emission-free container ships. There are a lot of places in the world with congested roads that will benefit from a high-tech solution like this,” Holsether said.

The Yara Birkeland is a collaborative project among several actors. Kongsberg is responsible for the development and delivery of all new technology on the ship. The ship will be operated from Massterlys’ monitoring and operations center in Horten. Massterly is a joint venture between Kongsberg and Wilhelmsen.

Geir Haoy, CEO of the Kongsberg Group, said, “Norway is a big ocean and maritime nation, and other nations look to Norway for green solutions at sea. Yara Birkeland is the result of the strong knowledge and experience we have in the Norwegian maritime cluster and industry. The project demonstrates how we have developed a world-leading innovation that contributes to the green transition and provides great export opportunities for Norwegian technology and industry.”

Featured image: The emissions-free Yara Birkeland on her maiden voyage in Oslo fjord. November 2021 (Photo courtesy Yara International)

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