The vessel, "Yara Birkeland," will be used to move 20-foot containers filled with NPK (nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium) fertiliser from Yara's production plant in Porsgrunn, Norway, to nearby ports of Brevik and Larvik, American Shipper reported.
In Brevik and Larvik, the containers will be loaded on ocean vessels for shipment to customers in locations such China, Brazil and Africa, said Kristin Nordal, a spokesman for Yara.
The battery-powered ship will have a capacity of about 3,500 deadweight tonnes and be able to carry about 100 TEU to 120 TEU. The ship's batteries will be recharged while in port with shore power.
The company has not yet selected a shipyard to build the vessel, but believes it will cost about NOK100 million (US$12 million). Yara expects to begin operating the ship in late 2018. Initially a small crew will be onboard to operate the ship, but the company expects it to be fully autonomous by 2019 or 2020.
Finance and logistics manager for Yara, Bjorn Tore Orvik, said the company is working with government officials in Norway to get all approvals for what it says would be the world's first autonomous and zero emissions ship.
Mr Orvik said the ship will travel about six nautical miles to Brevik and 32 nautical miles to Larvik. The ship would have a top speed of 12 to 15 knots, but Mr Orvik said the aim is to have the ship operate more slowly to conserve fuel, making one or two round trips each day. While some of the voyage is in a protected fjord, the ship will need to travel along Norway's south coast where Mr Orvik said the seas can be quite rough.
According to president and chief executive officer of Yara, Svein Tore Holsether, the ship will eliminate the need for 100 diesel truck trips currently required to transport the products.
"With this new autonomous battery-driven container vessel we move transport from road to sea and thereby reduce noise and dust emissions, improve the safety of local roads, and reduce NOx and CO2 emissions," said Mr Holsether.
Kongberg will be responsible for development and delivery of all key enabling technologies on that ship, including the sensors and integration required for remote and autonomous operations, in addition to the electric drive, battery and propulsion control systems.