Yara Birkeland Model Testing Underway

By The Maritime Executive 2017-10-09 19:48:35

A model of the autonomous and fully electric container feeder vessel, Yara Birkeland, is undergoing trials at SINTEF's test tank facility in Norway.

The six-meter-long (20-foot-long), 2.4-ton model was revealed for the first time late last month.

Agricultural products company Yara and technology company Kongsberg have partnered to build the 120-TEU, battery-operated vessel which has been designed by Norwegian design and engineering company Marin Teknikk. She will have an overall length of 79.5 meters (261 feet), deadweight of 3,200 tons and a full draught of five meters (16 feet).

The model of the final design uses technology destined for the real ship, including a fully working thruster system from Kongsberg. 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.

Yara Birkeland, named after Yara’s founder Kristian Birkeland, will enable a reduction of 40,000 road journey’s from Yara’s Porsgrunn fertiliser plant in southern Norway to the ports of Brevik and Larvik, significantly reducing local NOx and CO2 emissions produced by haulage trucks.

The autonomous ship will sail within 12 nautical miles from the coast. The whole area is completely covered by the The Norwegian Coastal Administrations' VTS system at Brevik. The distances between the ports are:

Herøya – Brevik (approximately 7nm)
Herøya – Larvik (approximately 30nm)

The electric propulsion system will be powered by a battery pack with a capacity of up to 9MWh and will include two azimuth propeller pods and two tunnel thrusters. This will provide a service speed of six knots and a maximum speed of 10 knots.

To ensure safety, three centers are planned to handle all aspects of operation. These centers 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. 

Autonomous operations will be supported by a range of sensors, including a radar, a LIDAR device, an imaging system and an infrared camera. Communications will include a maritime broadband radio and a virtual private network connection via Inmarsat.

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.

The decision of where the vessel is to be built will be decided and disclosed by the end of 2017. The vessel will be delivered and begin first tests and operations early 2019, and conduct fully autonomous operations in 2020.