Zero emissions and, soon, zero crew: the world’s first fully electric autonomous cargo vessel was unveiled in Norway, a small but promising step toward reducing the maritime industry’s climate footprint.
The much-delayed Yara Birkeland, shown to the media on Friday, will eliminate the need for about 40,000 trucks a year, by shipping up to 120 containers of fertilizer from a plant in the southeastern town of Porsgrun to the port of Breivik, a dozen kilometers (about eight miles) away. For travel that is now polluting diesel.
“Of course, there have been difficulties and setbacks,” said Sween Tor Holsther, chief executive of Norwegian fertilizer giant Yara.
“But then it seems even more rewarding to stand in front of this ship today to see that we were able to do it,” he said, with the sleek blue-and-white ship behind him at Oslo Dock, where it was for the event. was dispatched.
The 80-metre, 3,200-deadweight-ton ship will soon begin two years of working trials, during which it will be fine-tuned to learn the maneuvers on its own.
The wheelhouse could disappear completely in “three, four or five years,” Holsther said, once the ship makes a 7.5-nautical mile trip with the aid of sensors.
“A lot of incidents on ships are caused by human error, for example due to fatigue,” project manager Jostein Bratten told the potentially wrecked bridge.
“Autonomous operations can enable a safer journey,” he said.
The distance Yara Birkeland will cover may be short, but he will have to face many obstacles.
Before docking at one of Norway’s busiest ports, it would have to navigate a narrow fjord, and go under two bridges, while managing streams and heavy traffic from merchant ships, pleasure craft and kayaks.
The next few months will be learning time.
“First, we have to find out if something is there. We have to understand that it’s a kayak, then we have to determine what to do with it,” Breton said.
“Currently, big ships don’t do much with kayaks. They can’t do much. They can give warnings, but they can’t get away” or reverse to avoid an incident.
Autonomous navigation would require a new set of rules that do not yet exist.
On board the Yara Birkeland, the traditional machine room has been replaced with eight battery compartments, giving the ship a capacity of 6.8 MWh – derived from renewable hydropower.
“That’s the equivalent of 100 Teslas,” Breton says.
The marine sector, which accounts for about three percent of all man-made emissions, aims to reduce its emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and 50 percent by 2050.
Despite this, the sector has seen growth in recent years.
Including international and domestic shipping and fishing, the industry emitted more than one billion tons of greenhouse gases in 2018, up from 962 million tons in 2012, according to the latest figures from the International Maritime Organization.
In itself, Yara Birkeland’s contribution to global climate efforts would be just a drop in the ocean – eliminating 678 tons of carbon dioxide per year by redundant trucks.
And experts don’t expect electric utensils to become a universal solution for the industry anytime soon.
“Electricity has a ‘niche’ use, especially for ferries, as these are often short and stable routes, possibly on coastal and river transport. But it is not well adapted for long ocean crossings,” says Camille Agloff, a maritime transport expert said. Boston Consulting Group.
“Not only would (a ship) need to be autonomous for long distances, but you would have to equip the ports with battery chargers. So there are technical and infrastructure challenges that would need to be coordinated,” she said.
While dozens of electric ferries already criss-cross Norway’s fjords – a major oil and gas producer that is also a leader in electric transport – ocean liners rely on other technologies such as LNG, e-methanol to go green Will have to do and hydrogen.
Norway to build first self-sailing electric cargo ship
© 2021 AFP
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