The world’s first electric-powered container ship, Yara Birkeland, begins sea trials

Robert Stockdill

Robert Stockdill


The world’s first electric-powered container ship has completed its maiden test voyage ahead of commencing commercial operations next year. 

The ship, named Yara Birkeland, will undergo a two-year test of the technology that will make the ship self-propelled before it is eventually certified as an autonomous, all-electric container ship.

Yara Birkeland is a collaborative project between Kongsberg, shipping giant Wihlemsen, and Yara. It made its maiden voyage on the Oslo fjord. 

Yara is a global crop nutrition company that promotes climate-friendly crop nutrition and zero-emission energy solutions. The company specialises in “clean ammonia production” and has the ambition to enable the hydrogen economy by driving a green transition of shipping, fertiliser production and other energy-intensive industries. The ship will be dedicated to transporting its products. 

Yara CEO Svein Tore Holsether, says the ship will cut 1000 tonnes of CO2 and replace 40,000 trips by diesel-powered trucks each year. 

The world's first electric-powered container ship, Yara Birkeland, begins sea trials

“We have been looking forward to this day for a long time. Yara Birkeland will transport mineral fertiliser between Porsgrunn and Brevik and will contribute to significant emission cuts during transport,” he said. 

“This is an excellent example of green transition in practice, and we hope this ship will be the start of a new type of emission-free container ships. There are a lot of places in the world with congested roads that will benefit from a high-tech solution like this.”

The electric-powered container ship project has received funding from Enova, a Norwegian government enterprise responsible for promoting renewable energy, which has a budget of US$14.7 million to develop an electric and autonomous container ship.

“On the way to a low-emission society, transport emissions must come down to almost zero,” said Enova CEO Nils Kristian Nakstad. “To achieve that, we need projects that can transform the market – projects that have the potential to pave the way for others and increase the pace of change in their sector. This is exactly what we believe the world’s first autonomous and all-electric container ship will do.”

Kongsberg Group CEO Geir Håøy said the Yara Birkeland project is the result of strong knowledge and experience within the Norwegian maritime cluster and industry.

“Norway is a big ocean and maritime nation, and other nations look to Norway for green solutions at sea. The project demonstrates how we have developed a world-leading innovation that contributes to the green transition and provides great export opportunities for Norwegian technology and industry.”

Robert Stockdill

Robert Stockdill

Robert Stockdill is a content writer with more than 30 years of experience in five countries. His style has built upon award-winning success in news and features in the print media to leadership in digital communication, spanning news websites, social media, magazines, brochures, and contributing to books. Recognising the devastating impact of consumer behaviour on the planet and wanting to help make a difference Robert launched Viable.Earth as a platform to celebrate positive contributions by brands, companies and individuals towards reducing environmental impact and improve sustainability – especially in the fields of fashion, beauty, food, lifestyle, and transportation.


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