Home » Gadgets » Shipping: Yara Birkeland becomes the first autonomous e-freighter

Shipping: Yara Birkeland becomes the first autonomous e-freighter

Friday, August 18th, 2017 | Gadgets

Rest for the inhabitants of Porsgrunn: Every day vices roll through the city and transport the products of the fertilizer manufacturer Yara to the nearest port on a container – more than 100 a day. But this is to change: in the future, a ship will carry the freight containers quietly.

The Yara Birkeland, named after Yara founder Kristian Birkeland, is however no ordinary container ship: it is electrically driven, so runs clean. In addition, they will be commuting between three ports without crew. At the end of next year the ship will be the first autonomous cargo ship with an electric drive.
The ship has two ports
The Yara Birkeland will be a feeder – feeder are smaller vessels used as suppliers or distributors in ports. The vessel will deliver containers from the factory on the Herøya peninsula to the ports of Brevik and Larvik, from where they are then shipped. The concept was developed by the Norwegian technology company Kongsberg Maritime (KM), a subsidiary of the armaments company Kongsberg Gruppen (KOG).

        
    The autonomous, electrically operated freighter Yara Birkeland. Engine gondolas and side thrusters facilitate manoeuvering. (Picture: Kongsberg)

"We wanted to build an emissions-free ship, so it's electric," said Ketil Olaf Paulsen, Technology General Manager at KM Technology, Golem.de. "To make it competitive in comparison to conventional ships, it is unmanned."

The ship has two propeller gondolas
The Yara Birkeland will be 80 meters long and 15 meters wide and can be loaded with 120 standard containers. The vessel is powered by two propeller gondolas each with a capacity of 1.2 megawatts. The vessel reaches a maximum speed of 10 to 12 knots, 18.5 to 22 km per hour, the journey speed should be between 6 and 7 knots, 11 to 13 km per hour.
The gondolas hang under the hull and are rotatable – that increases the maneuverability. In addition, the ship does not need a steering wheel. Two bow thrusters are also fitted into the fuselage for easy attachment and removal. Each of them has an output of 0.6 megawatts.
It will be held in Herøya
A battery with a capacity of 7 to 8 megawatt hours provides the power for the motors. This allows a range of 64 nautical miles, almost 120 km. This is enough for the standard routes: Brevik is about 7 nautical miles, just 13 km away, Larvik about 30 nautical miles, just 56 km. In addition, the Yara Birkeland has to make it back to the home port on Herøya, because only the batteries can be charged.
The ship could theoretically also go to Sweden or Denmark, says Paulsen. This would be equipped with an additional battery or a generator, such as a fuel cell, to increase the range. The battery or range extender is placed in a container. A crew will have the ship, however, only at the beginning.

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