Yara International is hoping to sail its first autonomous electric cargo ship this year. Earlier, autonomous cargo solutions were limited to trucks and aircraft. CNN reports that the electric crewless voyage will begin its journey from Norway by the end of 2021. The trip will be between Heroya and Brevik, and the Yara Birkeland will have only three remote control centers to keep watch over it.
The company was expecting to begin this voyage in 2020, but it was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The concept was developed in 2017. It was built in partnership with technology firm Kongsberg Maritime and shipbuilder Vard. The ship is capable of carrying 103 containers at a time. Even though other crewless ships have been made, Yara Birkeland will be the first all-electric crewless ship. The ship will be a slow vessel with a 13-knot high speed. It is facilitated by the two 900kW propulsion systems. The battery is of 7MWh and will take some time to be fully charged. Yara disregards this time frame saying that the ship will bring less environmental concerns.
Yara hopes that the crewless ship will be able to cut down trips of 40,000 trucks in a year. It will result in environmental gains, as it will cut down the CO2 and nitrous oxide emissions. It will also reduce the traffic on land. Norway is a country that heavily relies on hydroelectric power. The ship is set to bring more efficiency in controlling the greenhouse gases emitted by the shipping industry.
Autonomous cargo haulers are not so common yet. It will take some time before we can see such ships making trips. Even though the ships will be more efficient, they will face trouble in navigating busy ports, like Durban and Shanghai. Legal issues are another concern. With different countries having different rules for the sea, it will be difficult for such ships to become common.