The world's first autonomous, electric container vessel will become a reality from 2020, reveal Norway's Kongsberg and Norwegian agricultural specialist YARA in a joint press release.

The new vessel will be dubbed Yara Birkeland and it will sail the relatively short journey between Yara's factory in Prossgrunn and Brevik and Larvik in Southern Norway – a journey of between 10 and 45 kilometers respectively.

The two companies have not revealed the size of the vessel but have announced that the ship's cargo would be able to replace 40,000 truck transports of fertilizer annually.

The new vessel will be equipped with sensors, radar, and other technology to ensure that it does not veer into the path of unmanned vessels. However the ship is also electric, meaning it does not directly emit any greenhouse gases or other dangerous particles.

"YARA Birkeland will set the benchmark for the application of innovative maritime technology for more efficient and environmentally friendly shipping," says CEO Geir Håøy in the press release.

Kongsberg thus lives up to its own prediction from March of this year, where the head of Kongsberg Digital, Hege Skryseth, pointed to autonomous vessels as one of the major digital trends within the shipping industry.

The new, autonomous vessel will begin operations from the second half of 2018. At the beginning, however, the vessel will be manned but from 2019 it will be remote operated and from 2020 it will be completely independent. Kongsberg is behind the technology while Yara will utilize the ship.

English Edit: Lena Rutkowski

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