Kongsberg takes a lead in autonomy
Norway’s maritime innovation reputation may have taken a hit with the downturn in the offshore sector but in the run-up to Nor-Shipping, an announcement this week from Kongsberg proves that the reputation is still valid. Norway – and especially Rolls-Royce – have been cheerleaders for autonomous ships but yesterday it was two other Norwegian concerns, Kongsberg and Fertiliser producer YARA that became the pace setters in the field. Yara aims to switch transport of products from its Porsgrunn plant to the port of Brevik from road to sea using an innovative battery powered feeder container ship. Named "YARA Birkeland" after YARA's founder, the famous scientist and innovator Kristian Birkeland, the vessel will be the world's first fully electric container feeder. YARA's new vessel will reduce NOx and CO2 emissions and improve road safety by removing up to 40,000 truck journeys in populated urban areas. The ship which is planned to be inservice in the second half of 2018, will initially operate as a manned vessel, moving to remote operation in 2019 and expected to be capable of fully autonomous operations from 2020. So far, few details have been released about the vessel beyond a basic outline although it was revealed that Kongsberg is responsible for development and delivery of all key enabling technologies on YARA Birkeland including the sensors and integration required for remote and autonomous operations, in addition to the electric drive, battery and propulsion control systems. Geir Håøy, President and CEO of Kongsberg said, "Developing systems for autonomous operations is a major opening and natural step for Kongsberg, considering our decades of expertise in the development and integration of advanced sensors, control and communication systems for all areas of ship operations. YARA Birkeland will set the benchmark for the application of innovative maritime technology for more efficient and environmentally friendly shipping".