Yara Birkeland, the first autonomous electric cargo ship


World’s First 7MWh Autonomous Electric Cargo Ship Goes Unmanned Voyage On Board

Yara International claims to have created the world’s first emission-free ship that can also carry cargo autonomously.

The electric cargo ship Yara Birkeland, which was conceptualized in 2017, will make its first voyage with no crew on board later this year in Norway.

Yara is focused on reducing emissions and sustainable agricultural practices, and to continue to be successful in feeding the planet, it believes that it can also do so sustainably.

To combat toxic emissions of sulfur oxides (SOx) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) from ship diesel engines, the Norwegian company created Yara Marine Technologies.

In 2017, the company began conceptualizing the possibility of a fully electric, autonomous boat to eliminate toxic emissions entirely.

The electric freighter seeks to complete its first voyage without a single crew member on board, and will make its first autonomous voyage this year.

It will make its first autonomous trip between two Norwegian cities (Herøya to Brevik) later this year. With no crew on board, the cargo ship will be closely monitored from three ground control centers.

To begin, loading and unloading the ship will require humans. However most operations will eventually operate through autonomous technology.

The focus on autonomy reduces the cost of operation for those transporting goods, while the all-electric cargo ship simultaneously fights carbon emissions.

The electric freighter boasts a 7 MWh battery capacity, which powers two 900 kW Azipull capsules, as well as two 700 kW tunnel thrusters, delivering a top speed of 13 knots (~ 15 mph). Current cargo capacity on the Yara Birkeland is 120 twenty foot equivalent units (TEU) or sixty 40 ′ shipping containers.


When the Yara Birkeland finally begins autonomous cargo shipments in Norway, she will load at the dock before visiting ports along the European coast and vice versa. Sletten believes the electric freighter will replace 40,000 truck trips a year.