Delivered at the end of last year by the Italian industrial group Fincantieri, the

Yara Birkeland

 was launched a few days ago and successfully completed her maiden voyage.

It is the first autonomous electric container ship in the world.

It should make it possible to reduce the environmental impact of the transport of goods by sea.

As the name suggests, it was delivered to Yara Company, a Norwegian fertilizer company that operates in the south-east of the country.

The freighter is 80 m long, 15 m wide and weighs 3,200 tonnes. The engine room has been replaced by eight compartments filled with batteries which provide a capacity of 6.8 MWh, which is equivalent to approximately 100 Tesla Model 3. Its maximum speed is 13 knots, or 24 km / h. During its maiden voyage, it traveled 10 km and carried 120 containers full of fertilizer.

Technicians will be present for two years to verify the reliability of the system, after which the cargo will become truly autonomous.

Jostein Braaten, the project leader, explains that one of the difficulties lies in approaching small obstacles: “First of all, we have to detect that there is something.

The machine then needs to figure out that it is a kayak and then needs to figure out what to do with that information.

Currently, large ships don't do much with a kayak.

There is not much they can do.

They can warn, but they cannot maneuver away.


Reduce the number of accidents

Once the vehicle has become fully autonomous, however, the number of accidents should drastically reduce: “A large part of the incidents that occur on ships are due to human error, for example fatigue, autonomous operation can allow a safe trip.


Ultimately, the

Yara Birkeland

will replace 40,000 truck trips per year, currently made by diesel vehicles.

Loading and unloading operations will be carried out automatically by cranes and electrical equipment.

The vessel will also be equipped with an automatic mooring system.

If this first electric boat is a first step in reducing the diffusion of CO2 into the atmosphere, there is still a long way to go before general adoption.

For now, autonomous electric freighters cannot be used for long journeys across the ocean because of their limited autonomy.

Engineers therefore continue to work to find renewable energy sources in order to overcome this limitation.


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  • Environment

  • Norway

  • CO2

  • Transport

  • energy

  • High-Tech

  • Boat

  • Cargo

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