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A ship that does not need crew or carbon emissions to reach its destination5 min read

September 10, 2021 4 min read

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A ship that does not need crew or carbon emissions to reach its destination5 min read

Reading Time: 4 minutes

At present, the shipping industry contributes anywhere between 2.5% to 3% of global emission of greenhouse gases.

Image: Giphy

That’s quite a decent number. Surely people are thinking about ways to fix this.

In a pathbreaking move, a Norwegian company has created what it calls the world’s first zero-emission, autonomous cargo ship.

Image: CNN

This means that the ship will run on electricity and will move in the absence of any crew members! It will be controlled from distant onshore data centres.

So, if you see a cargo ship coming your way, and you cannot see a captain navigating the steering wheel, don’t sweat! It could very well be a cool autonomous ship.

While an earlier successful attempt at an autonomous ship was made in 2018 in Finland, this Norwegian wonder is the first electric ship of this kind.

The ship, Yara Birkeland, has been made by a chemical company called Yara International with two purposes in mind. One, to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides, the toxic pollutants and greenhouse gases, and carbon dioxide. Two, to move freight or cargo from roads to the sea. Conceptualised alongside technology form Kongsberg Maritimeand shipbuilder Vard, the ship is capable of carrying 130 containers at a speed of 13 knots. Its battery has thousand times the capacity of an electric car! The ship will replace load to the tune of 40,000 truck journeys in a year.

All over the world, cities are deploying electric ferries. Find out more about this new mode of transport. Image: CNN.

Most of Norway’s electricity needs are met by hydroelectric power which produces lesser carbon emissions than burning fossil fuels.

Apart from its green advantages, it also has the other green advantage— MONEY!

Image: Giphy


Since it is crewless, the ship is more cost-effective.

What do you think happens to people with a specific skill when their
skill is automated or replaced by a robot or Artificial Intelligence? Let Owliver know in the comments below.

The initial loading and unloading process will require human support but eventually even these obviously human tasks will be managed using autonomous technology. This will entail the development of autonomous cranes and straddle carriers (vehicles that place the containers onto the ships).

Image: CNN

The ship will be ready to make its first trip by the end of this year. Earlier, it was slated for last year but the pandemic came in the way of a smooth sail.

This is the first time that an autonomous ship will be sailing in Norwegian waters. So, the regulations have been made alongside the Norwegian maritime authorities.

Autonomy and the sea

Is there a possibility to see container ships turn into commercial ships? That may be the future but there are some challenges along the way:

Traffic navigation:

It may be hard to manage conflicting routes once too many of these ships are in the water. New technology will have to support their smooth communication.

On-sea health:

Without crew members to take care of maintenance issues, the ships will need to have an in-built diagnostic systems of their own that can identify, and fix problems or call for human support.

Legal concerns:

Borders in water are harder to distinguish than borders on land. Autonomous ships moving to other territories will need to align with the rules and regulations of the newly ventured areas.

Once these concerns are tackled, autonomous vessels might just be the future! Will you take a ride in a ferry without a human navigator? Owliver is ready if the view is this pretty!

Image: Yara

With excerpts from CNN

Image: © Yara International ASA

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