In the Paris COP21 agreement, member states agreed to commit to reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the shipping industry, making promises that are both ambitious and realistic. A Norwegian chemicals’ group Yara has taken the first step, unveiling its new project vessel Yara Bireklandwhich is slated to begin operations in the later half of 2018. Yara Birekland will take off autonomously, fuelled by an electric battery and shipping products from Yara’s Porsgrunn production plant to Brevik and Larvik in Norway as a start.

“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,” explained Svein Tore Holsether, president and CEO of Yara. The new vessel will reduce nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide emissions and improve road safety, by replacing up to 40,000 truck journeys in populated urban areas. Yara Birkeland will first operate as a manned vessel, moving to remote operation in 2019. It is expected to be fully autonomous starting 2020.

“By moving container transport from land to sea, Yara Birkeland is the start of a major contribution to fulfilling national and international environmental impact goals. The new concept is also a giant step forward towards increased seaborne transportation in general,” says Geir Håøy, president and CEO of Kongsberg, the international, knowledge-based group responsible for development and delivery of all key enabling technologies on Yara Birkeland, including the sensors and integration required for remote and autonomous operations, in addition to the electric drive, battery and propulsion control systems.

Yara Birekland


Yara and Kongsberg’s announcement comes in line with the International Maritime Organization’s efforts to reduce water pollution caused by ships. In November 2016, the environmental committee of the United Nation’s International Maritime Organization (IMO) met in London to map a plan to guarantee that the industry is taking on its fair share of climate change action. The 170 member states planned to reduce the sulfur content of ship fuels to 0.5% or less on global oceans, which will go into effect as of 2020. However, when it comes to nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide – both of which Yara Birekland aspires to tackle – the IMO agreed on what they call a plantodevelopastrategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships, to be followed as of 2023. Unlike the sulfur content, no targeted figures have been revealed. In the meantime, IMO announced that it will provide a quantitative basis for any future policies as large ships begin collecting data on fuel use no earlier than 2018.