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Tuesday, September 1, 2020 

Kongsberg Maritime and Massterly (a Kongsberg/Wilhelmsen joint venture) have signed contracts with Norwegian grocery distributor ASKO to equip two new vessels with autonomous technology, and to manage their operations at sea.

The fully electric ships will replace 2 million kilometres of truck transport, saving 5,000 tonnes of CO2 every year. ASKO undertakes more than 800 truck journeys daily, with road transport currently the only link between the warehouses on the western side of the Oslo fjord and the distribution centre on the eastern side. The new ro-ro vessels will replace the current solution with a zero emission transport alternative.

The company is dedicated to sustainability and despite investing in low-emission trucks, wants to go further. Kai Just Olsen, Director, ASKO Maritime, said: “We have a clear ambition to be climate neutral and have set ambitious goals, including being a self-sufficient provider of clean energy and having 100% emission-free transport by 2026. These innovative ships are key to fulfilling that ambition and will form an essential component of a zero-emissions logistics chain linking our facilities. Fully electric trucks will take the cargo between the warehouses and the ports of Moss and Horten, and in shipments of 16 the trailers will be transported across the fjord on the battery-driven vessels. This solution is cost effective, sustainable and will remove trucks from a heavily trafficked road.”

Norwegian government sustainability body ENOVA has supported the project – including the required port infrastructure – with NOK 119m. The vessels will be equipped with the technology required for zero emission and unmanned operation by Kongsberg Maritime, while Massterly will ensure ship management and safe operations from a shore-based Remote Operations Centre. The two vessels will initially operate with a reduced crew, before moving towards unmanned voyages.

Egil Haugsdal, President, Kongsberg Maritime, said: “When we teamed up with Wilhelmsen to form Massterly, this was exactly the kind of project we wanted to enable. By working together with us to bring autonomous, electric solutions into everyday use, ASKO are helping to achieve a sustainable, safer future for maritime operations while also demonstrating the efficiencies these technologies can deliver.”

Thomas Wilhelmsen, CEO of Wilhelmsen Group, said: “The ASKO contract illustrates how Massterly is key in making autonomy a reality for short-sea shipping. We are proud to be the world’s first ship management company to operate unmanned vessels for commercial use. Now we are one step closer to our goal of enabling sustainable trade: through cost effective, safe, and environmentally friendly logistics.”

Since the ASKO operation lies within Norway’s coastal jurisdiction, the Norwegian Maritime Authorities will follow the project through a detailed risk assessment, based on IMO 1455 guidelines with regards to equivalent and alternative designs, new technology, verification, and approval for operation. DNV GL will support this process as an independent third party. The functionality enabling autonomous operation will be implemented and tested after arrival in the operational area in the Oslo fjord.

The 66m long vessels, which are due to be delivered early in 2022, have been designed by Norwegian vessel designer Naval Dynamics and will be constructed at the state-owned Cochin Shipyard in India. Each vessel will be able to load, carry and discharge 16 EU-spec trailers. The vessels will be built to DNV GL notation: 1A1 + Battery Power + RP (1,40) + R3 + General Cargo + BIS. The 1,800kWh battery capacity enables fully loaded sailing for four hours at eight knots.

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