World's first autonomous cargo ship to launch in 2020

Posted Aug 24, 2018 by Karen Graham
Norway fertilizer company, Yara, announced last week it has signed a deal with Norwegian shipbuilder VARD worth almost NOK 250 million (US$30 million) to build an autonomous and electric container vessel.
The Yara Birkeland will be the world s first autonomous cargo vessel.
The Yara Birkeland will be the world's first autonomous cargo vessel.
Yara International
VARD will deliver Yara Birkeland for launch in early 2020, and the vessel will gradually move from manned operation to fully autonomous operation by 2022.
The ‘Yara Birkeland’ will be the world’s first autonomous electric container ship, and will no doubt change freight transport at sea. Not only will there not be a need for crewed ships, but a vessel's time in port will be cut with autonomous container loading and offloading concepts. All these technological advances are to cut a ship's time in port, costs and the number of workers needed.
Mr. Roy Reite, CEO and Executive Director of VARD, commented: "We are honored to be chosen as Yara's partner in this innovative and exciting project. With a longstanding experience in building state-of-the-art and tailor-made specialized vessels, we are excited to be given the opportunity to build the world's first autonomous and electric-driven container vessel. It is a pleasure to welcome Yara and Kongsberg to VARD, and we look forward to working closely with all parties involved."
The YARA Birkeland will be the world’s first fully electric and autonomous container ship  with ze...
The YARA Birkeland will be the world’s first fully electric and autonomous container ship, with zero emissions.
In May 2017, Yara partnered with Kongsberg, an international technology group that supplies high-technology systems and solutions to customers in a number of industries, including merchant marine, defense, aerospace, offshore oil and gas industries, and renewable and utility industries.
Kongsberg will be responsible for the navigation sensors and software to make the vessel autonomous while VARD will be responsible for getting the ship built to specifications. About half the cost of the vessel will be paid by the Norwegian government through its ENOVA fund.
Enova SF is owned by the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment and contributes to reduced greenhouse gas emissions, development of energy and climate technology and a strengthened security of supply. The country has been working for years to find a way to replace diesel trucks with less toxic alternatives, and autonomous ships would be ideal for Norway's large coastal shipping network.
“By moving container transport from land to sea, Yara Birkeland is the start of a major contribution to fulfilling national and international environmental impact goals. The new concept is also a giant step forward towards increased seaborne transportation in general,” says Geir Håøy, President, and CEO of KONGSBERG.
Port-Limer s electric barge.
Port-Limer's electric barge.
Tilburg logistics company GVT Group
What about ghost ships
In September 2017, Digital Journal addressed the issue of autonomous shipping and how it would apply with maritime laws. International shipping law states that any ocean-going vessel must be properly crewed, meaning real, live people must be on board. This means that any autonomous ships can only sail along the coast of the country where the "ghost ship" is located.
In April 2018, a response from Kennedys Law stated that" "To date, no international legal marine instrument has addressed the legalities of crewless ships. It is important to consider how, if at all, these vessels could comply with current maritime regulations such as SOLAS, COLREGs, STCW, and MARPOL, to name a few. The primary issue with these crewless ships is the ‘manning’ requirement, whether express or implicit in many of these regulations."