Agriculture firm Yara International and tech company Kongsberg Gruppen – both based in Norway – are developing the world's first crewless, autonomous and fully electric ship.
The Yara Birkeland is set to launch in late 2018 and is expected to be fully autonomous by 2020. It will use GPS, radar, cameras and navigation sensors to manoeuvre safely around other boats and dock without human intervention.
The project is anticipated to cost around $25m, three times as much as a standard container ship of the same size. But, without the need for fuel or crew, annual operating costs would be cut by up to 90%. Also, the crewless ship will help reduce emissions by replacing truck journeys through urban areas in southern Norway.
"Every day, more than 100 diesel truck journeys are needed to transport products from Yara's Porsgrunn plant to ports in Brevik and Larvik, where we ship products to customers around the world. With this new autonomous battery-driven container vessel we move transport from road to sea and thereby reduce noise and dust emissions, improve the safety of local roads, and reduce NOx and CO2 emissions," said Yara president Svein Tore Holsether.
Once international regulations are in place for crewless vessels, the companies plan to invest in bigger ships and use them for longer routes.
Modes of transport that operate themselves and learn from their environments will be the norm towards the end of the decade, promising safer and more efficient journeys. See Radical Transport for more.