Yara Birkeland: Automation project paused because of Covid-19

A programme to launch the world’s first all-electric autonomous container vessel – the Yara Birkeland – in Norway have been postponed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the current uncertain market conditions.

Norway-based Yara, the company behind the project, said that “due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the changed global outlook, Yara has decided to pause further development of the vessel and will assess next steps together with its partners,” the company said.

The hull of the Yara Birkeland vessel was launched to sea in Romania in February 2020 and was scheduled to arrive at the Norwegian shipyard in May where she would be fitted with various control- and navigation systems and undergo testing before delivery to Yara.

Yara and technology company Kongsberg teamed up in 2017, hoping to build the world’s first autonomous and zero-emission container vessel.

The vessel was initially due to enter service as a manned vessel in 2018 before being converted for autonomous operations by 2020. Even before the project was postponed those dates had shifted to 2020 delivery and fully autonomous operations by 2022, according to Kongsberg.