Norway relies on the electric revolution on the water

“Yara Birkeland”

The world’s first fully electric container freighter should also be able to drive fully autonomously in the future.

(Photo: Yara)

Stockholm Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store could not hide his pride when he took part in the maiden voyage of the “Yara Birkeland” in November 2021. It was a “world first”, “a short journey for the ‘Yara Birkeland’, a long one for mankind,” he explained as he left the shipyard’s first all-electric container ship.

“We now have enormous opportunities to develop this concept for other regions of the world,” explained the politician and is already hoping for a global success of the concept. “You only have to think of the huge need for transport, for example in Asia. We have enormous opportunities there.”

The “Yara Birkeland” is an 80 meter long container freighter that can not only drive electrically, but also autonomously. The ship is currently in a test phase, in which it is transporting fertilizers from the loading port of the manufacturer Yara in Porsgrunn to the export port of Brevik, which is almost 13 kilometers away.

“Yara Birkeland” is intended to replace 40,000 truck trips per year

There is currently one captain on board. But in a few years, the Yara Birkeland will drive autonomously and will only be controlled from land.

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The loading capacity of the “Yara Birkeland” is recorded with 120 standard containers (TEU). For comparison: The 400 meter long “Ever Given”, which blocked the Suez Canal for days in spring 2021 due to a technical error and disrupted global delivery logistics, has a loading capacity of 20,000 TEU.

Even if the electric freighter appears tiny in this comparison, According to Yara, emission-free transport means that around 40,000 truck trips will become superfluous each year. The electricity used to charge the 6.8 megawatt hour batteries is produced with hydroelectric power in a climate-neutral manner.

Although Norway is one of the largest oil and gas exporters in the world, its electricity is generated almost entirely from hydropower and wind power. In addition, there is no diesel emergency generator installed in the electric freighter.

Norway wants to halve CO2 emissions

But Prime Minister Store and his government have other ambitious goals: CO2 emissions are to be halved by 2030. And the electrification of the many ferries that cross the fjords every hour plays a major role here. According to calculations by the Norwegian environmental protection organization Bellona, ​​the approximately 180 ferries account for around five percent of the country’s total CO2 emissions.

The “Zero Cat” has been operating in the Sognefjord between Lavik and Oppedal since 2015. It was the first purely electrically powered car ferry in the world. She can carry up to 360 passengers and 120 cars. More electric ferries are now connecting towns and cities along the 1,800-kilometer coast. The shipping companies rely either on battery technology or on fuel cells.

electric ferry

According to environmentalists, the approximately 180 ferries in the country account for around five percent of total CO2 emissions.

(Photo: Norled)

Even if Prime Minister Store speaks of a revolution in shipping, according to experts it will still take many years before global container traffic can be converted to emission-free drives. Because the energy density of the batteries is still missing. However, electric propulsion is becoming increasingly important for local shipping.

More: The EU is urging shipping companies to say goodbye to diesel

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