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Crown Prince of Norway christens world’s first emission-free container ship “Yara Birkeland”

04 May 2022

Norwegian firm Yara International ASA, a producer of nitrogen fertiliser, nitrates, ammonia, urea and other nitrogen-based chemicals, on Friday (29 April) said 500 young local students and the Crown Prince of Norway, Haakon Magnus, celebrated the christening of Yara Birkeland, the world’s first electric, autonomous container vessel.

As a new twist to the maritime tradition, the emission-free ship was christened by not only one, but two godmothers. 

To represent the future, young Pernille Gundersrud, 12, and Malene Moen Straume, 12, took on this honourable role. The christening took place close to the Yara Porsgrunn plant.

“Fighting climate change and reducing harmful CO2 emissions is the world community’s most important task. Global warming threatens our future,” says Gundersrud.

“We are young. We represent the future, as Yara Birkeland does. We are incredibly proud and thankful to be asked to be godmothers for the world’s first fully electric and autonomous container vessel with zero emissions,” says Straume.

The ship will transport fertiliser across the fjord from Yara’s Porsgrunn plant to Brevik port and thereby eliminate the carbon emissions of 40,000 diesel truck loads per year.

A leading nation of green shipping

About 500 Porsgrunn students from fifth to seventh grade joined the Crown Prince in the ceremony.

“We christen you Yara Birkeland. May you be blessed with good fortune on your mission and may you inspire others in the fight for a better climate,” the two godmothers said before throwing a specially made champagne bottle of ice against the bow of the ship.

In his speech, His Royal Highness Crown Prince Haakon Magnus of Norway addressed the young ones, as well as Yara.

“It takes courage to create something new. It requires investment, patience, and an ability to not give up after the first try. Innovation requires trial and error – and trial and error again – until you succeed. Those of you who have worked at Yara for many years have been involved in this several times before throughout the company’s history”, said His Royal Highness at the ceremony in Porsgrunn.

Crown Prince of Norway christens world's first emission-free container ship “Yara Birkeland”

A brave decision

“This is a milestone for Yara,” says Svein Tore Holsether, President and CEO of Yara International.

“Yara took a bold decision in 2017. We wanted to build the world’s first carbon-free container vessel. Today, five years later, we celebrate the outcome of this ambitious decision. Yara Birkeland is a result of ambition, curiosity, and collaboration where innovation, sustainability and technology come together.”

Yara developed the battery-driven ship in collaboration with several Norwegian partners. Kongsberg Maritime has developed and delivered the technology. The ship is built by Vard. Yara Birkeland will be operated by a joint venture undertaken by the Kongsberg Group and Massterly, which is owned by the Wilhelmsen Group. Enova, owned by the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment, has contributed financially (NOK 133.5 million) to the development of Yara Birkeland.

The ship is named after Kristian Birkeland, a leading Norwegian scientist in the early 1900s who is one of the founding fathers of what Yara represents today. 

Facts about Yara Birkeland

  • Yara Birkeland is the world’s first electric and autonomous container ship with zero emissions. The ship will transport fertiliser across the fjord from Yara’s Porsgrunn plant to Brevik port and thereby replace 40,000 diesel truck loads per year and eliminate associated carbon emissions.
  • The ship has been developed in collaboration between several Norwegian players. The technology company Kongsberg Maritime is responsible for the development and delivery of the Yara Birkeland technology, including sensors and integration required for remote control and autonomous operations, as well as electric propulsion, battery and control systems.
  • The ship was built at Vard’s shipyard in Brattvåg. Massterly, a joint venture undertaken by the Wilhelmsen group and the Kongsberg group, has operational responsibility for Yara Birkeland from its monitoring and operations centre in Horten. State-owned Enova has supported the development of Yara Birkeland with NOK 133.5 million.
  • Yara Birkeland will be put into operation in 2022. Initially, it will start a two-year trial period to become autonomous and certified as an autonomous, all-electric container vessel.


Photo credit: Yara International ASA
Published: 4 May, 2022

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