Yara Birkeland Project Paused Due to COVID-19

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

May 11, 2020

Yara Birkeland was launched in Romania in February 2020 (Photo; Yara International ASA)

Yara Birkeland was launched in Romania in February 2020 (Photo; Yara International ASA)

Plans to launch the world’s first all-electric autonomous container vessel Yara Birkeland have been shelved due to the coronavirus pandemic and uncertain market conditions, said Yara International, the Norwegian company behind the project.

"Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the changed global outlook, Yara has decided to pause further development of the vessel and will assess next steps together with its partners," the company said.

In 2017, Yara partnered with technology company Kongsberg to build the fully battery-powered container vessel, designed by Marin Teknikk to transport chemicals and fertilizer autonomously and without emissions along the coast of Norway.

The 120 TEU open hatch container feeder was initially due to enter service as a manned vessel in 2018 before being converted for autonomous operations by 2020. Before the project was shelved, those dates had shifted to 2020 delivery and fully autonomous operations by 2022, according to Kongsberg's website.

The hull of the 80-meter Yara Birkeland was launched at Vard Braila in Romania in February 2020 and arrived Sunday at Norway's Vard Brevik shipyard where the vessel was slated to be fitted with control and navigation systems and undergo testing before autumn delivery, Kristin Nordal, Yara International's Vice President Corporate Communications, told MarineLink.

"As a part of the project pause, evaluations will be made about which of the processes to complete, and which to pause. Yara will together with its partners assess the next steps in the development of the vessel," Nordal said.

"Yara wants to ensure that the vessel is completed, but we need pause further development in this difficult situation. We will use this time to conduct a thorough assessment of the next phases in the project," Nordal said.

Representatives from Kongsberg were not immediately available for comment.

The Yara Birkeland project has received NOK 133.6 million ($13 million) in support from Enova, a Norwegian government enterprise that promotes environmentally friendly energy production and consumption.

MacGregor will deliver an automated system to enable Yara Birkeland to moor without human intervention.

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