The world’s first all-electric container ship, the 3,200dwt Yara Birkeland, has entered commercial service along the Norwegian coast using a 7 MWh lithium battery bank powering two bow thrusters and two pivoting propeller pods to provide a service speed of 6 knots and a maximum speed of 13 knots.

The 79.5m by  14.8m ship, owned by ammonia producer Yara International, is currently operating with a crew but this will gradually change and by 2024 it will operate as an unmanned vessel.

The first step towards this goal will be the completion of tests involving a robotic mooring arm designed by MacGregor that will replace two people.

Thereafter, the chief engineer will move ashore followed by the two navigators, one at a time.

Once there is no crew on board the 120 TEU vessel’s navigation bridge will be removed and it will be controlled from three data control centers located on shore.

The ship will operate its 37 nautical mile route between the ports of Herøya, Brevik and Larvik in an area managed by the Norwegian Coastal Administrations’ VTS system.

On this route it will replace 40,000 trips by diesel-powered trucks made each year while reducing 1,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually.

Report by Jim Shaw

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