Yara Birkeland, world’s 1st zero-emission containership, completes maiden voyage

The world’s first electric and self-propelled containership – Yara Birkeland – has completed its maiden voyage in the Oslo fjord, the ship’s owner, Norway-based Yara International, revealed.

Yara International

On 18 November, Yara Birkeland took its first and only trip to Oslo before being put into operation.

After departing Horten in the morning, Yara Birkeland arrived in Oslo in the early Thursday evening for partners to experience the ship first-hand.

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On 19 November, the Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Størewas and Minister of Fisheries and Ocean Policy Bjørnar Skjæran were given a tour by CEO of Yara, Svein Tore Holsether.

“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,” CEO of Yara said.

Photo: Yara International

Emission-free shipping

Yara Birkeland was developed in collaboration with the Kongsberg Group. The ship was built by Vard with financial support from Enova, and will be in commercial operation from 2022.

The container vessel was delivered to Yara in November 2020, despite COVID-related challenges that paused the ship’s construction.

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

“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.”

A two-year testing period of the technology will now begin. It will make the ship self-propelled, and finally certified as an autonomous, all-electric containership.

A shared ambition

Yara Birkeland is a collaborative project between several actors, where Kongsnerg is responsible for the development and delivery of all newly developed 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.

“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,” Geir Håøy, CEO of the Kongsberg Group, commented.

Enova, a government enterprise responsible for the promotion of renewable energy, has allocated up to NOK 133.5 million to build the world’s first electric and autonomous containership.

“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,” Nils Kristian Nakstad, CEO of Enova, stressed.

Green shipping is the future

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.

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

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 2 per cent 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,” Ankarstrand continued.