Two Norwegian companies – Yara International and Kongsberg Gruppen – are building the world’s first crewless, autonomously operated ship, an advance that could mark a turning point in seaborne trade, reports WSJ.
The autonomous electric ship, named Yara Birkeland, is scheduled in late 2018 to start sailing. It will be capable of carrying 100 shipping containers and is being built to transport fertilizer 37 miles from a production facility to the Port of Larvik in Norway.
Using the Global Positioning System, radar, cameras and sensors, the electric ship is designed to navigate itself around other boat traffic and to dock on its own.
The ship, according to the Wall Street Journal, will cost $25 million, about three times as much as a conventional ship of similar size, but will save up to 90% in annual operating costs by eliminating both fuel and crew.
One container ship will act as a bridge for the vessel. Eventually, that “bridge” will be moved to shore and the ship will be controlled like a drone. Finally, by 2020, the ship will operate autonomously with monitoring from shore.