Autonomous Electric Container Ship to Set Sail in 2018

The world’s first autonomous and all electric commercial ship is set to take to the seas in 2018.

(Image courtesy of YARA Birkeland.)

(Image courtesy of YARA Birkeland.)

Over the past few years, the conversation about autonomous ships navigating the high seas has picked up steam, and why not? Drones have been working the skies for a decade and autonomous cars appear to be right around the corner, so it makes sense that autonomous ships would be hitting the ocean soon.

And by soon, I mean late next year.

YARA Birkeland, a global fertilizer company, will be joining forces with maritime technology firm KONGSBERG to develop an autonomous, all electric container feeder ship.

The new ship, which will begin to displace the NOx and CO2 emissions of over 40,000 truck trips, will be outfitted with sensors to allow both remote and autonomous operations. Beyond outfitting and integrating the ship with sensors, KONGSEBERG will also add an electric drive, a battery array and a propulsion control system to the craft.

“Every day, more than 100 diesel truck journeys are needed to transport products from YARA’s Porsgrunn plant to ports in Brevik and Larvik where we ship products to customers around the world. With this new autonomous battery-driven container vessel we move transport from road to sea and thereby reduce noise and dust emissions, improve the safety of local roads, and reduce NOx and CO2 emissions,” said YARA president and CEO Svein Tore Holsether.

While the futuristic and eco-friendly furnishing of the vessel will begin this year, YARA will launch the craft as a manned vessel at first and slowly move to remote operation by 2019. If all goes according to plan, full autonomous operations will begin in 2020.

Now, the question remains, will this vessel be a model for even larger and more ambitious maritime projects?

For more marine autonomy, check out  Royal Navy Tests Drone Speedboat on the Thames.