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Enova grants Yara $16.8m for world’s first electric, autonomous containership

A shipyard for the containership, which will be dubbed the Yara Birkeland, will be selected by the end of the year, and the plan is to launch the vessel in the first quarter of 2019.

   The Norwegian government enterprise Enova has granted chemicals company Yara 133.6 million Norwegian krone (U.S. $16.8 million) to build the world’s first electric and autonomous containership, Yara said in a statement.
   The investement will cover approximately one-third of the estimated cost.
   Yara has collaborated with technology company Kongsberg to build the ship, which will be named the Yara Birkeland, after Yara’s founder, Kristian Birkeland. A shipyard will be selected by the end of 2017 and the plan is to launch the vessel in the first quarter of 2019.
   The Yara Birkeland will transport fertilizer from Yara’s production plant in Porsgrunn to the container ports of Brevik and Larvik, all of which are located in southeastern Norway.
   “The interest in autonomous transport is great, but at the same time, many are skeptical and question the safety,” Enova CEO Nils Kristian Nakstad said. “The key contribution from this project is to demonstrate that autonomous and electric sea transport is feasible, and will deliver the results we want.”
   The six-meter long, 2.4 metric ton heavy model of the Yara Birkeland, which features technology destined for the real ship, including a fully working thruster system designed by Kongsberg, launched Thursday in the 80-meter long sea laboratory at research company SINTEF Ocean’s facility in Trondheim, Norway. The ship model was designed by Marin Teknikk AS and is now undergoing testing before construction of the full-scale vessel starts.
   Yara, Kongsberg, SINTEF Ocean and Marin Teknikk are all based in Norway.