Video: Yara Birkeland Arrives in Oslo Before Entering Service

battery operated containership Yara Birkeland completes maiden voyage
Yara Birkeland taveled along the Oslo fjord on her maiden voyage (Yara)

Published Nov 19, 2021 2:00 PM by The Maritime Executive

Yara Birkeland, which is billed as the world's first electric and self-propelled container ship, marked an important milestone completing her ceremonial maiden voyage and first visit to Oslo, Norway in advance of beginning commercial service early in 2022. The vessel, which completed construction and was delivered a year ago, has been undergoing outfitting and testing as it proceeds toward the ultimate goal of beginning fully autonomous operations in the future.

“We have been looking forward to this day for a long time,” said Svein Tore Holsether, CEO of Yara, the Norwegian fertilizer company which owns and will operate the vessel. “We are proud to be able to showcase the world's first fully electric and self-propelled container ship. It will cut 1,000 tons of CO2 and replace 40,000 trips by diesel-powered trucks a year,” Holsether said during the previews of the vessel.

Yara Birkeland departed Horten, Norway, approximately 35 miles south of Oslo at the head of Oslo fjord on the morning of November 18. The vessel, which is currently operating with a crew and a temporary bridge, made its way along the fjord arriving after nightfall in Oslo. Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and Minister of Fisheries and Ocean Policy Bjørnar Skjæran were welcomed as the first official visitors to the new vessel this morning, November 19. 



Measuring 260 feet in length, the vessel is designed to carry up to 120 20-foot containers of fertilizer. It will make two trips per week sailing within 12 nautical miles of the Norwegian coast traveling between Porsgrunn where Yara’s facility is located and Bevik, where the export port is located. She is equipped with two Azimuth pods propellers and thrusters, all of which are powered by a battery pack developed by Leclanche of Switzerland. The batteries will provide 7 MW of power and will be automatically recharged during the loading and unloading operation.

The project was developed through a collaboration between a range of companies. Kongsberg is responsible for the development and delivery of all the technology to guide the ship. The vessel is outfitted with radar, lidar, and cameras that will inform the operations. Massterly, a joint venture between Kongsberg and Wilhelmsen, will monitor the vessel’s operations from a center in Horten, Norway.

Yara Birkeland is the result of the strong knowledge and experience we have in the Norwegian maritime cluster and industry. The project demonstrates how we have developed a world-leading innovation that contributes to the green transition and provides great export opportunities for Norwegian technology and industry,” said Geir Håøy, CEO of the Kongsberg Group.

Starting in 2022, the vessel will begin a two-year testing period of the technology that will make the ship self-propelled. During that time the vessel will continue manned operations while the systems are tested and improved. According to the companies, the sensors will be able to quickly detect objects a small as a kayak and take appropriate actions to avoid danger. They are working towards finally being certified as an autonomous, all-electric container ship.