First autonomous and emission-free container ship

Yara Birkeland, the world’s first all-electric and emission-free container ship has completed its maiden voyage in Norway, travelling nine miles, from Porsgrunn to the port of Brevik, in the Oslo fjord.

The fully electric and self-propelled 120 teu container ship will cut 1,000 tonnes of CO2 and replace 40,000 trips by diesel-powered trucks a year, transporting fertilizer products from Yara’s Porsgrunn plant to Norway’s Brevik and Larvik ports.

Technological inputs include sensors that can detect objects like kayaks in the water and integrations for autonomous operations. In the future, the ship will be able to load and offload its cargo, charge its battery and navigate without any human involvement. 

Starting next year, the container will carry out two trips a week with a monitoring crew and the self-navigating technology will be tested over a two-year period, after which the ship will be certified autonomous and the bridge will be removed from the ship. 

Yara, have been working with maritime technology company Kongsberg on the development of the vessel since 2017, in a pioneering project that is leading the maritime industry’s journey towards autonomous operations and zero-emission shipping. 

The route will have it sail within 12 nautical miles (nm) from the coast between the ports of Herøya, Brevik and Larvik in southern Norway. The area is managed by the Norwegian Coastal Administrations’ VTS system at Brevik and the distances between the ports are approximately 7 nm for Herøya – Brevik and 30 nm Herøya – Larvik.

The ship was constructed by VARD and it will begin manned commercial operations from 2022, kicking off a two-year testing period of the technology that will make the ship self-propelled and finally certified as an autonomous, all-electric container ship.

Enova, a government enterprise responsible for promoting renewable energy projects, has allocated up to NOK 133.5 million for the project.

In a linked initiative, the development of green ammonia as an emission-free fuel for long distance deep-sea shipping is being explored.

As the world’s largest producer of fertilizers, Yara relies on ammonia for its fertilizer production. At the same time, current ammonia production represents 2% of the world’s fossil energy consumption, corresponding to about 1.2% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions and Yara plans to remove current emissions and establish the production of new, clean ammonia.

As a non-asset owning 3PL, 99% of our carbon footprint is generated by our customers’ shipments on planes, ships and trucks, that we do not own or operate, but this does not diminish our determination to be carbon neutral and support our customers’ in achieving the same ambition.

By working with customers, suppliers and carrier partners we are measuring, reporting and offsetting emissions, to build greener supply chains that drive down CO2 and waste.

The MVT ECO module monitors the CO2 equivalent emissions of every consignment we move, by every mode and is available to all Metro customers, to understand and offset the environmental impact of their supply chains.

Header image of Yara Birkeland courtesy of, photo credits Knut Brevik Andersen, Wilhelmsen Ship Service