Fincantieri subsidiary VARD has delivered Yara Birkeland, a zero-emissions container vessel, to Yara International, a Norwegian fertiliser company.

The 120 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) Yara Birkeland is a battery-electric container feeder.

The 80m-long, 15m-wide container ship is expected to gradually shift from manned operations to fully autonomous operations by 2022.

The ship’s hull was constructed at VARD’s Braila yard in Romania.

Originally, the outfitting and delivery were scheduled for completion at VARD Brevik. Later, the construction work was assigned to VARD Brattvaag and a scheduled delivery in May 2020 was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Now, the vessel will undergo further testing besides autonomous system development near Horten, Norway.

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In a statement, VARD said: “We have been through an exiting process with technological development and have gained a great amount of knowledge about such type of vessels, which we will continue drawing experiences from going forward. This is an example of how flexible we need to be in order to adapt to new technology and changes in the maritime industry. We wish Yara the best of luck developing the vessel further and we look forward to seeing it coming into operation soon.”

The initial phase of the project has seen the installation of a detachable bridge with equipment for navigation and manoeuvring.

The module will be lifted off when the vessel is ready for autonomous operation in the future.

The vessel will be deployed to transport cargo between Yara’s fertiliser plant in Porsgrunn to the Brevik and Larvik ports in Norway.

It is expected to take approximately 40,000 truck journeys off the road annually and reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) and carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions.

In 2018, VARD secured a contract worth approximately Nkr250m ($29m) from Yara to build Yara Birkeland.

Through a collaboration formed between Yara and technology company Kongsberg in May 2017, the latter was responsible for the delivery of all key-enabling technologies on the vessel.

These technologies include sensors and integration needed for autonomous and remote operations, besides battery and propulsion control systems and electric drive.

Last week, VARD secured a contract for designing and constructing eight marine robotic vessels for Ocean Infinity, a marine robotics company.