YARA Birkeland – Ship of the Week Nov 3, 2017 | West Pacific Marine

It is not too often that we feature a ship which has yet to be built but given the significance, this week is an exception. The final design of the world’s first autonomous and zero emission container feeder ship, to be named YARA Birkeland, was released last month in Norway. When she enters service, the vessel will replace 40,000 trucking legs per year between Yara’s Porsgrunn fertilizer plant and the Norwegian ports of Brevik and Larvik when she enters service in 2019. Initial sailings will be manned operations with a steady transition to autonomous and fully unmanned operations by 2020.

To be built by
Project owners
LOA 79.5m
Beam 14.8m
Deadweight 3,200 MT
Capacity 120 TEU
Service speed 6 knots, maximim 10 knots
Propulsion: fully electric with 2 Azimuth Pods
Battery pack 7,5 – 9 MWh


Partnering in the project, KONGSBERG will be responsible for development and delivery of all key enabling technologies including the sensors and integration required for remote and autonomous ship operations to allow the vessel to sail within 12 nautical miles of the coast. Loading and discharging will be facilitated automatically using electric cranes and equipment and the vessel herself will dispense with ballast tanks, instead using the battery pack as permanent ballast. To solve the problem of a mooring crew, the vessel will be fitted with an automatic mooring system.


To provide full oversight of the voyage, three centres (picture above left) will be established to provide condition and operational monitoring in addition to decision support and surveillance. With design and final tank testing of a 6m long and 2.4 tons model now complete, a construction contract is expected to be signed shortly with delivery expected in Q1 of 2019, Never far away from low emission projects with its wallet, the Norwegian government has provided a grant of almost $17 million to Yara towards the construction of the vessel which is expected to cover about one third of the total estimated development and construction cost.

In a further related development, Rolls-Royce recently entered an agreement with Google to gain access to that company’s intelligent awareness systems to help make existing vessels safer but also with a view to the wider development of autonomous, unmanned ships.

Originally established as Norsk Hydro in 1905, the company demerged as Yara International ASA in 2004. Yara’s core business of nitrogen fertilizer production is related to efficient agricultural productivity and food production. YARA Birkeland will be named after Yaras’ founder, the physicist, Mr. Kristian Birkeland (1867-1917), who in 1905 discovered how to produce fertilizer by using electricity to extract nitrogen from the air. The company this year celebrated the 150th anniversary of his birth. Picture above right.

See the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8eGatj_9y6Q