The vessel “YARA Birkeland” will be the world’s first fully electric and autonomous container ship, with zero emissions. Operation is planned to start in the latter half of 2018, shipping products from YARA’s Porsgrunn fertiliser production plant to Brevik and Larvik in Norway.

“Every day, more than 100 diesel truck journeys are needed to transport products from YARA’s Porsgrunn plant to ports in Brevik and Larvik where we ship products to customers around the world. With this new autonomous battery-driven container vessel we move transport from road to sea and thereby reduce noise and dust emissions, improve the safety of local roads, and reduce NOx and CO2 emissions,” says Svein Tore Holsether, President and CEO of YARA.

Named “YARA Birkeland” after YARA’s founder, the famous scientist and innovator Kristian Birkeland, a 120 TEU open top container ship, will be a fully battery powered solution, prepared for autonomous and unmanned 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.

She will initially operate as a manned vessel, moving to remote operation in 2019 and expected to be capable of performing fully autonomous operations from 2020. The new zero-emission vessel will be a game-changer for global maritime transport contributing to meet the UN sustainability goals.

Kongsberg is responsible for development and delivery of all key enabling technologies on YARA Birkeland including the sensors and integration required for remote and autonomous operations, in addition to the electric drive, battery and propulsion control systems.

“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.


As a leading global maritime technology company, Kongsberg’s integrated control and monitoring systems are already capable of providing technology for remote and unmanned operations. YARA Birkeland will benefit from competence and technologies developed across Kongsberg.

For the first phase of the project a detachable bridge with equipment for manoeuvring and navigation 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 Q3 2017, and the delivering ship yard within the first quarter of 2018.

Estimated facts & figures

Main particulars

Length o.a.: 79,5 m
Length p.p.: 72,4 m
Width mld.: 14,8 m
Depth shelter deck: 10,8 m
Draught (full): 6 m
Draught (ballast): 3 m
Service speed: 6 knots
Max speed: 13 knots

Cargo capacity: 120 TEU
Deadweight: 3 200 mt

Propulsion system: Electric
Propellers: 2 Azimuth pods
Thrusters: 2 Tunnel thruster
Battery pack: 7 – 9 MWh
Proximity sensors

IR camera
Connectivity & Communication

Maritime Broadband Radio
Satellite Communications
Loading and discharging 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.

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. An interface towards Yara logistical operation will be implemented at the operational centre at Herøya