Mester Commercial News Feed

World’s First Autonomous Electric Cargo Ship Will Set Sail This Year

Sustainable and autonomous shipping methods are getting much, much bigger. The first-ever crewless electric cargo ship, called the Yara Birkeland, is set to embark on its first voyage in Norway by the end of 2021. Its manufacturer, Yara International, hopes to use the ship to replace 40,000 truck journeys per year.

At 80 meters long and 15 meters at the beam, the Birkeland is hardly the largest ship at the shipyard. According to Yara, it’s capable of carrying 120 TEU—twenty-foot equivalent units, for those who don’t have their sealegs—and possesses a deadweight of 3,200 metric tons. (For perspective, a majority of smaller cargo ships can carry anywhere from 10,000 to 12,000 TEU.)

Once it’s set sail, the Birkeland will travel at a modest speed of six to seven knots, though it can reach a maximum of 13. Its two 900 kW Azipull pods and dual 700 kW tunnel thrusters will propel it from Herøya to Brevik while three remote control centers monitor the trip.

There’s the chance that shipping vehicles not reliant on human labor will help to reduce shipping costs over time—though whether that’s a pro or a con depends on where you stand, as automating a piece of a supply chain almost always results in the loss of jobs.