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Friday, November 19, 2021 

The first all-electric container ship with autonomous capability, the 'Yara Birkeland', which was developed in collaboration with Kongsberg, has made its maiden voyage in the Oslo fjord, under the eyes of the Norwegian Prime Minister.

Yara CEO Svein Tore Holsether welcomed Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and Minister of Fisheries and Ocean Policy Bjørnar Skjæran onboard after the ship had completed maiden voyage to Oslo.

Holsether said: “We are proud to be able to showcase the world's first fully electric and self-propelled container ship. It will cut 1,000 tonnes of CO2 and replace 40,000 trips by diesel-powered trucks a year."

The Yara Birkeland was developed in collaboration with the Kongsberg Group, and built by Vard with financial support from Enova. It is scheduled to be in commercial operation from 2022.

Holsether said: “We have been looking forward to this day for a long time. The Yara Birkeland will transport mineral fertiliser between Porsgrunn and Brevik and will contribute to significant emission cuts during transport. This an excellent example of green transition in practice, and we hope this ship will be the start of a new type of emission-free container ships. There are a lot of places in the world with congested roads that will benefit from a high-tech solution like this.”

A trial period will now begin, expected to last two years, during which the technology will be tested that will make the vessel able to be finally certified as an autonomous, all-electric container ship.

Kongsberg has been responsible for the development and delivery of all newly developed technology on the ship. The ship will be operated from Maasterlys’ monitoring and operation’s centre in Horten. Massterly is a joint venture between Kongsberg and Wilhelmsen.

Kongsberg Group CEO Geir Håøy said: “Norway is a major maritime nation, and other countries look to Norway for green solutions at sea. Yara Birkeland is the result of the extensive knowledge and experience we have available in the Norwegian maritime cluster and industry. The project demonstrates how we have developed world-leading innovation that contributes to the green transition and provides great export opportunities for Norwegian technology and industry.”

Enova, a government enterprise responsible for promotion of renewable energy, has allocated up to NOK 133.5m to build the world's first electric and autonomous container ship.

Nils Kristian Nakstad, CEO of Enova, said: “On the way to a low-emission society, transport emissions must come down to almost zero. To achieve that, we need projects that can transform the market - projects that have the potential to pave the way for others and increase the pace of change in their sector. This is exactly what we believe the world's first autonomous and all-electric container ship will do.”

In parallel with the construction of Yara Birkeland, Yara has initiated the development of green ammonia as an emission-free fuel for shipping, through the newly started Yara Clean Ammonia.

“Renewable energy was our starting point in 1905. Now, ammonia can bring us back to our roots. Our large shipping network and existing infrastructure means that ammonia has the potential to become the leading fuel for long-distance shipping globally,” said Magnus Krogh Ankarstrand, CEO of Yara Clean Ammonia.

Yara relies on ammonia for fertiliser manufacture, to help feed an ever-growing population. Current ammonia production represents 2% of the world's fossil energy consumption. This corresponds to about 1.2% of the world's total greenhouse gas emissions.

Ankarstrand added: "As the world's largest producer of ammonia, Yara has launched an aggressive plan of international scale, both to remove current emissions and to establish the production of new, clean ammonia."

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