Autonomous electric RoRo freight ferries start service in Norway

The Marit and Therese were christened in Norway last week and were due to begin operation this week for Norway’s largest grocery distributor. They are first electric, autonomously operated “sea drones” and are part of a two-year trial period for the vessels to earn full certification for uncrewed operations.

The two vessels are some 70 metres long and weigh just 60 tons. They, were built in India for ASKO Maritime, a new division of the grocery operator.

They have also been designed to operate fully autonomously, ferrying freight trailers across Norway’s Oslo Fjord. Once fully certified, they will operate controlled by an onshore centre using technology from Massterly, a joint venture between Wilhelmsen and Kongsberg.

The vessels were named in honour of two of the country’s cross-country skiers and Olympic champions. The initial trips were adapted to distribution for ASKO Oslofjord in Østfold, Norway.

During the two-year certification period, the vessels will sail with a limited four-person crew, including the captain. Once they have been certified, the plan calls for the vessels to operate uncrewed and as part of a larger emission-free transport system. Each vessel will transport trailers that will be moved between the distribution centre in Moss and Horten, Norway using electric trucks. At the ports, autonomous electric trucks will load the trailers aboard the barges. Each vessel has a capacity to carry 16 trailers, each with a maximum capacity of 29 tons.

The vessels are powered by 1846 kWh capacity batteries which will recharge automatically while docked in port.

ASKO hopes within a few years to evolve to a level of transporting 150 trailers a day, saving nearly 1m miles of road transport annually and eliminating 5,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually.

The vessels arrived in Norway on August 9 after a delivery voyage aboard a heavy-lift vessel that began in India on June 29th.