Many of the goods we consume daily are produced outside of our country and travel here by massive ships that cross the ocean. Typically, those massive ocean-crossing vessels are operated by a large crew of men and women, making sure the ship operates and arrives at its destination as planned. However, a company from Norway has completed the first zero-emission autonomous cargo ship in the world.
The ship will travel between two Norwegian towns. That test cruise is expected to happen before the end of the year, and when it happens, there will be no crew on board. Rather than having a crew on the ship operating it, a trio of data control centers on land will monitor the ship’s operation.
According to the ship manufacturer, while this isn’t the first autonomous ship, it is the first fully electric container ship that needs no crew. The vessel was developed by a chemical company called Yara International and is called the Yara Birkeland. The goal of the zero-emissions ship was to help reduce nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide emissions.
Nitrogen oxides are toxic, polluting greenhouse gases. The autonomous ship also aims to eliminate some cargo from being carried on the roads. A massive ship traveling between port cities can carry significantly more cargo than a big rig can. Reducing emissions in the shipping industry is a significant goal for ship manufacturers and fleet operators.
Reports indicate that shipping accounts for as much as three percent of all greenhouse gases emitted globally. The ship was first envisioned in 2017 and was created with help from Kongsberg Maritime and a shipbuilding company called Vard. Yara Birkeland can carry 103 containers at a top speed of 13 knots. It uses a gigantic 7 MWh battery that reportedly has about one thousand times as much power as a typical electric car.