World’s 1st Autonomous Shipping Company in the Making

Norwegian companies Wilhelmsen and Kongsberg are joining forces to establish the world’s first autonomous shipping company.

Image Courtesy: Kongsberg

The new joint venture company, named Massterly, will be based in Lysaker, Norway, and be fully operational from August 2018.

Through the new company, the duo intends to offer “a complete value chain for autonomous ships, from design and development, to control systems, logistics services and vessel operations.”

As explained, land-based control centers will be established to monitor and operate autonomous ships in Norway and internationally.

“Autonomy and remote operations are an important development for the maritime industry and Norway’s lead has been made possible as a result of close cooperation between the Norwegian maritime cluster and the Norwegian authorities. In recent years there has been rapid development driven by a significant increase in demand… When autonomous ships soon are a reality, Massterly will be crucial for digitalising the infrastructure and operations,” Geir Håøy, President and CEO of Kongsberg, said.

In 2017, Kongsberg and its compatriot fertilizer producer Yara teamed up on a project to build the world’s first autonomous and zero emissions ship, Yara Birkeland, by 2020. The vessel will be sailing between Yara’s Norwegian production facilities at Herøya and the ports of Brevik and Larvik. Massterly will be able to deliver and operate autonomous vessels such as Yara Birkeland, according to Kongsberg.

“Currently, we are at the very beginning of this development, but we see and believe that there will be a significant market for these types of services in the near future. At first, short sea shipping will use autonomous ships. This also implies increased competitiveness to move transport from road to sea. The gains are increased efficiency and reduction of emissions. For Norway as a maritime nation, this will be an important contribution to reach the UN sustainable development goals,” Thomas Wilhelmsen, Wilhelmsen Group CEO, pointed out.

Norway currently has three autonomous shipping test beds. The third test area was opened in Horten on the Oslofjord in December 2017.