Yara Birkeland electric container ship starts commercial operations

By Julian Buckley09 December 2021

Yara Birkeland Yara Birkeland will eliminate up to 40,000 truck journeys per year

The Yara Birkeland, billed as the world’s first autonomous and fully-electric container ship, is to enter commercial operations while also undergoing a two-year test period.

The ship is powered by a 6.7 MWh battery system delivered by Leclanché. This is said to be equivalent to 130 Tesla Model 3 battery packs.

“We are very proud to be able to contribute to the success of this unique project. With our battery system for the Yara Birkeland, Leclanché contributes to lower greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 40.000 container truck road journeys per year, not to mention road safety improvements, noise pollution reduction and increased logistics efficiencies,” said Anil Srivastava, chief executive officer of Leclanché.

The battery system features a Leclanché Marine Rack System to ensure optimum cell operating temperatures. This prevents overheating, while also having an integrated fire protection system.

The Leclanché Marine Rack System consists of 20 strings with 51 modules of 32 cells each, for a total of 32,640 cells. The battery system has built-in redundancy, with eight separate battery rooms. If multiple strings are emptied or stop working, the vessel can continue its operations.

Each string contains gas and smoke detectors, redundant thermal monitoring and a cooling system to precent overheating and thermal incidents. In the event of an emergency, a Fifi4Marine fire extinguishing system is in place, using an ‘environmentally friendly’ foam to extinguish the fire.

Charged from renewable sources, the batteries should have a minimum service life of 10 years.

The Yara Birkeland is approximately 80 metres in length and 15 meters wide. It has a deadweight of 3,120 tonnes, or 120 standard containers. Service speed is approximately six knots, with a maximum speed of 13 knots.

The ship completed its maiden voyage to Oslo, Norway, in mid-November. It then sailed to Porsgrunn, home of fertiliser manufacturer and ship owner Yara International.

“Yara is constantly seeking opportunities to reduce its climate footprint and fulfil its main vision to responsibly feed the world,” said Jon Sletten, project owner. “Embarking on a technically challenging project as Yara Birkeland together with our technology partner Kongsberg Maritime is, as such, a small endeavour in the large challenge we as one out of many industrial players are embarking on.”

Once the test period is completed, the Yara Birkeland will navigate on a completely autonomous basis, transporting containers from Yara International’s production plant in Herøya to the port of Brevik.

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