Electric and autonomous e-container ship Yara Birkeland prepares for commercial operation10 December 2021

The Yara Birkeland, the world's first autonomous and fully electric container ship, will soon commence commercial operations while beginning a two-year test period, prior to entering full autonomous operation on a route off the coast of Norway. It is powered by a Leclanché high-energy lithium-ion battery system.

The energy supply is provided by a 6.7 MWh battery system with integrated liquid cooling to ensure optimum operating temperature. The Leclanché Marine Rack System (MRS) is said to provide optimum temperature control of the cells and their permanently reliable operation over a service life of at least 10 years. In addition, the MRS offers state-of-the-art protection against overheating and an integrated fire protection system specifically designed and certified for maritime requirements.

The Yara Birkeland completed its maiden voyage to Oslo in mid-November and then sailed on to Porsgrunn, the southern Norwegian production site of Yara International, a fertiliser manufacturer and the vessel owner.

The Leclanché battery system, which represents the same energy as 130 Tesla Model 3 batteries, supplies energy for the 80m-long, 15m-wide container ship with a deadweight of 3,120 tonnes or 120 standard containers (TEU). The vessel will operate at a service speed of approximately six knots, with a maximum speed of 13 knots.

Technology partner was Kongsberg Maritime.

Manufactured in Switzerland, the system is fitted with lithium-ion cells. This Leclanché Marine Rack System consists of 20 strings with 51 modules of 32 cells each, for a total of 32,640 cells. The battery system has built-in redundancy, with eight separate battery rooms: if multiple strings are emptied or stop working, the vessel can continue its operations.

To prevent a fire on the open sea, Leclanché specially developed the modular DNV-GL certified MRS. Each battery string contains gas and smoke detectors, redundant thermal monitoring and a cooling system to prevent overheating and thermal incidents. Should a thermal incident occur despite all this, the Fifi4Marine fire extinguishing system kicks in: based on environmentally friendly foam, it cools and extinguishes quickly and effectively.

Once the test period is completed, the Yara Birkeland will navigate on a completely autonomous basis, transporting container products from Yara International’s production plant in Herøya to the port of Brevik.

The vessel’s operation is estimated to displace around 40,000 truck journeys per year.

Operations Engineer

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