Zero-Emission, Autonomous Cargo Ship Under Development
A group of Norwegian companies led by logistics provider DB Schenker is developing an autonomous, zero-emission electric container ship for furniture-making giant Ekornes.
The vessel is “designed from the keel up for autonomous and zero-emission operation” and will sail the Norwegian coast without a crew. It will be monitored and controlled by staff from Massterly, an autonomous-shipping joint venture between marine-tech provider Kongsberg Maritime and global shipping company Wilhelmsen Group.
“We’re beginning to see a general shift away from road transport of goods — with its considerable carbon footprint — toward clean, energy-efficient, short ocean freight transport,” Kongsberg CEO Geir Håøy said. “Given our decades of expertise in creating and perfecting systems for ship operations in every context, we are in a unique position to carry out pioneering work in this project.”
The “short-sea” vessel, also known as a coastal container feeder, will deliver furniture between Ekrornes’ port in Ikornnes and the port of Ålesund, which serves the main ocean-freight ports in Europe, the companies said. The 50-meter, all-electric ship will be able carry 300 deadweight tons of cargo and cover the 23-nautical-mile Ikornnes-Ålesund journey within three hours, traveling at 7.7 knots.
“Utilizing the autonomous electric container feeder for direct pickups of our Stressless products from our own dock in Ikornnes means that our total carbon footprint will be reduced significantly,” Ekornes CEO Roger Lunde said. “We will also gain better control over, and greater flexibility with, our own logistics.”
The NDS AutoBarge 250 concept, which was developed by Kongsberg and another project participant, ship designer Naval Dynamics, will form the base for the ship. The Massterly staff, which will include certified navigators and naval engineers, will operate the ship from the company’s Remote Operation Center. The planned two-way data communication solution between the center and the ship is “destined to be another game-changer in the ocean freight sector,” DB Shenker said.
The participants said the vessel will bring numerous benefits, particularly in the sustainability sphere, such as zero emissions, faster and more efficient transport and reduced road traffic. The group’s future plans call for obtaining approval from the Norwegian Maritime Authority and possibly governmental sustainability and technology incentives.