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Wednesday, May 13, 2020 

Pioneering autonomous ship project 'Yara Birkeland' has been temporarily shelved, with owner Yara International citing uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Polish sources say that the hull, constructed at the Vard Bralia shipyard in Romania, was due to be transported to Vard Brevik in Norway this month for final completion later this year, but this has been further delayed. The image shows the vessel in April 2020 following the launch of the hull. The original plans, announced by Yara International and Kongsberg, which was responsible for the remote and autonomous aspects of the vessel, were for the ship to begin operation in 2018 as a manned vessel and gradually shift to autonomous and remote operation. The schedule slipped to 2020 delivery, with full autonomy to be achieved by 2022.

The 80m vessel, with capacity for 120 standard containers, was designed by Marin Teknikk of Norway in conjunction with Kongsberg. The ship was designed to operate solely with battery power, as a zero-emissions vessel.

The ship is intended to transport Yara's fertiliser products from the Yara production plant in Porsgrunn, along inland waterways to Brevik and Larvik. Kongsberg and MacGregor were working together to develop a fully autonomous mooring system, enabling the whole delivery chain to be undertaken without human involvement, and totally saving on carbon emissions produced by traditional transport methods.

Yara International is the parent company of exhaust gas cleaning specialist Yara Marine, which was formed following the takeover by Yara International of Green Tech in 2014.

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