The world’s first zero emission, Autonomous Container Feeder


In Brief

“The world’s first electric power autonomous container ship, Yara Birkeland, is scheduled to set sail in 2018. Thus, a new chapter of zero-emission by-sea transportation with unprecedented efficiency in terms of both UN maritime transport sustainability standards for greenhouse gas reduction and fixed operational overhead for contracted skippers, in the same token.”


As self-driving vehicle scoups have recieved a lot of coverage on the Tech front page as of late, including our blog: game-changing self-driving trucks and mercedes-benz: ahead of its time logistics, as well as Google’s Self-Driving Car that is followed enthusiastically by interested drivers all over the world for cutting edge breakthrough. A major reason for it is that such technology holds the promise of significantly enhanced safety and security standards along with operational efficiency.

The development, nonetheless, seems to have taken an unexpected turn to the sea, surpassing by-land autonomous cars with the world’s first self-governing cargo ship to be launched in the 2018 time frame. A more feasible traffic environment could be one reason, where boats are less effected by other operators on the same road that may be equally high-tech and self-governed, or not. The world’s first Tesla of the Seas has been named Yara Birkeland, after her owner, Yara Inernational from Norway, and her founder, Kristian Birkeland, a Norwegian scientist. The first of its kind ocean liner will take on the first tides on a 37 miles journey, about 60 kilometers, from the factory source to the port of Larvik, Norway.

The automated propulsion system requires a Global Positioning System (GPS), radars, cameras and sensors with electrical chips designed to detect and navigate maritime itineraries and dock the docks. The ship is valued $25 million, or three times the size of a typical container ship, while the crew, operational overhead and required fuel consumption is reduced by around 90% to realize an optimized economy of scale over the long run. 100 automated vessels will be built and operational by the end of 2018 where the crew remains in charge at the helm for the initial phase.

Yara Birkeland will become the world’s first clean electric power freighter that operates with energy cheaper than black gold. According to Svein Tore Holsether, President and CEO of Yara, Yara Birkeland can easily channel transport from urban roads to sea routes and thus eliminate urban noise, pollution, and improve safety on local roads by removing otherwise 40,000 plus trucks hauling through densely populated cities. The e-vessel is capable of carrying around 120 containers and equipped with automated load-upload electric crane systems. With such a promise, Rolls-Royce Holding has joined the race with Robotic Ship development investing with a goal of traveling up to 3,500 nautical sea miles at a time. The 60-meter Rolls-Royce vessel will be designed for specific missions with idiosyncratic capacities, accordingly, e.g., coast guard surveillance and patrol, all the way to marina and maritime security.

The patrol ship uses AI and sensors to get around instead of human crew that come with notable on-board footprint and space requirements that run counter to operational efficiency, e.g., crew quarters, sanitation and hygiene requirements as well as food supply and neglected waste management. It can operate long stretches of around 100 days without subjecting the crew to unnecessary risk or unhealthy environments and therefore caters smaller designs cheaper to manage over either short and long missions. The extra space also facilitates otherwise unfeasible on board weigh bearing capacities such as a modular systems that can switch to drone launching missions or a full electric 1.5MW propulsion system that keeps the vessel off pirate radars. Rolls-Royce’s marine stealth comes with two generators that garners 4MW of green propulsion whilst taking care of the planet in one shot from solar panels and 3,000kWh of energy storage to keep it going until the sun stops shining, if need be. E-powertrains makes it possible to commence missions without a mechanic aboard. It is, however, not the fastest ship out there and best suited for quiet surveillance rather than chasing down fullyloaded ICE (internal combustible engine) pirates.

Along AI lines, Rolls-Royce expects the ship to be the world’s first with a built-in Intelligent Awareness System and Augmented Reality that keep operations safe and efficient control of the ship is commanded from a Holographic Control Room, or anautonomous ship control system, from a remotes site that can detect ice bergs, tug boats or any obstacle in the water that the crew would have difficulty observing. Rolls-Royce is also designing remote-controlled Drone Boats to replace in-cargo vessels while a Virtual Deck is deployed back in Norway to manage from anywhere in the world. Drone Ships are expected to be safer, cheaper and cleaner than traditional freigh systems, in every operational aspect.

Large expectations are growing for these innovations to benefit the logistics industry and help sustain the environment in the same token, so we can thrive along with the planet we so depend upon, for good.

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