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Autonomous ship project, key facts about YARA Birkeland

YARA Birkeland
The autonomous ship YARA Birkeland.

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The world's first zero emission, autonomous container feeder

The vessel YARA Birkeland will be the world’s first fully electric and autonomous container ship, with zero emissions. KONGSBERG is responsible for development and delivery of all key enabling technologies including the sensors and integration required for remote and autonomous ship operations, in addition to the electric drive, battery and propulsion control systems.

The ship

A 120 TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units) open top container ship. It will be a fully battery powered solution, prepared for remote control and autonomous operation. The vessel will reduce NOx and CO2 emissions by reducing diesel-powered truck transport by around 40,000 journeys per year. This eco-initiative will help to meet the UN sustainability goals, and improve road safety and congestion.

For the first phase of the project a containerised bridge with crew facilities will be implemented. When the ship is ready for autonomous operation this module will be lifted off.

The following describes the concept design. The final design will be decided by the end of Q2 2017, and the delivering ship yard within the third quarter of 2017.

Estimated facts & figures

These figures may change slightly as the project progresses.

Main particulars
  • LOA: 80 m
  • Beam:15 m
  • Depth: 12 m
  • Draught (full): 5 m
  • Draught (ballast): 3 m
  • Service speed: 6 knots
  • Max speed: 10 knots
  • Cargo capacity: 120 TEU
  • Deadweight: 3 200 mt
  • Propulsion system: Electric
  • Propellers: 2 Azimuth pods
  • Thrusters: 2 Tunnel thruster
  • Battery pack: 7,5 – 9 MWh
Proximity sensors
  • Radar
  • Lidar
  • AIS
  • Camera
  • IR camera
Connectivity & Communication
  • Maritime Broadband Radio
  • VPN connection through Inmarsat

Loading / unloading / mooring

Loading and unloading will be done automatically using electric cranes and equipment. The ship will not have ballast tanks, but will use the battery pack as permanent ballast.

The ship will also be equipped with an automatic mooring system - berthing and unberthing will be done without human intervention, and will not require special implementations dock-side.

Operational area

The autonomous ship will sail within 12 nautical miles from the coast, between 3 ports in southern Norway. The whole area is completely covered by the The Norwegian Coastal Administrations' VTS system at Brevik.

The distances between the ports are:

  • Herøya – Brevik (approx. 7 nm)
  • Herøya – Larvik (approx. 30 nm)

Operation / control centres

To ensure safety, three centres with different operational profile are planned to handle all aspects of operation. These centres will handle emergency and exception handling, condition monitoring, operational monitoring, decision support, surveillance of the autonomous ship and its surroundings and all other aspects of safety.

  • YARA at Porsgrunn
  • Kongsberg Maritime
  • Kystverket VTS centre at Brevik - to be decided



  • Design finalised. Design done by Marin Teknikk, design MT 2007.
  • Model towing tank testing. Testing at SINTEF Ocean in Trondheim Norway.
  • Yard contract award.


  • The vessel will be delivered from the yard in the second half of the year (Q3).
  • Testing with a captain and small crew, placed in a container-based bridge and crew unit, is scheduled to start second half.


  • Remote control tests will be carried out.


  • The vessel will be fully autonomous.

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