The World's First Autonomous, Electric Cargo Ship

Two Norweigan companies, Yara International ASA and Kongsburg Gruppen ASA, have begun developing the world's first electric, autonomous cargo ship. The Yara Birkeland has been nickanmed the "Tesla of the Seas" and is expected to make its first trip in late 2018. The trip will be 37 miles to the port of Larvik.

The first trip will be made with a crew on board the vessel, and then slowly become autonomous in stages. Without the use of crew members, the ship will eventually navigate and dock on its own through the use of cameras, sensors, the Global Positioning System, and radar. 

The ship is estimated to cost $25 million, which is three times as much as a normal container ship of the same size. Proponents believe that even with the high cost, annual costs will be cut by up to 90% due to the declining need of fuel and crew members.

In addition to cutting expenses, the Yara Birkeland will cut back on emissions as it could replace 40,000 urban trips made by trucks throughout Norway. The ship will help the environment and be cost efficient, as cleaner fuels are less expensive than fossil fuels.

Yara's head of production, Petter Ostbo, says that the company wants to look into investing in bigger ships to use for longer trips, possibly international ones, once the Internation Maritime Organization decides on international regulations for autonomous vessels. Regulations are not expected to be announced until 2020.


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