Norwegian Initiative to Develop Autonomous Zero Emission Ro-Ro Vessels

Norwegian initiative to develop zero emission autonomous vessels
Design of the autonomous ro-ro barges to be built in Norway - courtesy Kongsberg

Published Sep 1, 2020 4:46 PM by The Maritime Executive

A new Norwegian initiative is joining the efforts to develop next-generation autonomous shipping vessels. This new effort seeks to design and launch two commercial ro-ro barges that will operate crossing the Oslo fjord replacing traditional truck traffic. The goal is to replace two million kilometers of truck transportation resulting in a saving of 5,000 tons of CO2 annually.

Kongsberg Maritime and Massterly, a joint venture between Kongsberg and Wilhelmsen, will develop and manage the new generation vessels for ASKO, a Norwegian grocery distributor. The two fully electric ships will each be equipped with the technology required for zero emission and unmanned operation by Kongsberg Maritime, while Massterly will ensure ship management and safe operations from their shore-based Remote Operations Centre. 

The vessels, which are due to be delivered early in 2022, have been designed by Norwegian vessel designer Naval Dynamics and will be constructed at the state-owned Cochin Shipyard in India. The functionality enabling autonomous operation will be implemented and tested after arrival in the operational area in the Oslo fjord. Because of the regulations and the need to prove the technology, it is anticipated that the two vessels will initially operate with a reduced crew, before moving towards unmanned voyages.

ASKO, one of Norway’s largest grocery distributors, currently transports its goods on more than 800 trucks each day. With their warehouses on the west side of the Oslo fjord and the distribution center on the east side, road transport is the current means of linking their operations. The new ro-ro vessels will replace the current vehicles with a zero emission transport alternative that will also seek to prove autonomous technologies.

“We have a clear ambition to be climate neutral and have set ambitious goals, including being a self-sufficient provider of clean energy and having 100% emission-free transport by 2026. These innovative ships are key to fulfilling that ambition and will form an essential component of a zero-emissions logistics chain linking our facilities,” explains Kai Just Olsen, Director, ASKO Maritime. “Fully electric trucks will take the cargo between the warehouses and the ports of Moss and Horten, and in shipments of 16 the trailers will be transported across the fjord on the battery-driven vessels. This solution is cost-effective, sustainable, and will remove trucks from a heavily trafficked road.”

According to the announcement, ENOVA is also supporting the project, including the required port infrastructure, with 119 MNOK, in line with the Norwegian society's commitment to reduce emissions and transfer transport from road to sea where feasible.

Because the ASKO operation lies within Norway’s coastal jurisdiction, the Norwegian Maritime Authorities (NMA) must also be satisfied that a sufficient level of safety has been achieved before they will issue an approval of operation for these vessels. NMA will therefore follow the project through a detailed risk assessment, based on IMO 1455 guidelines with regards to equivalent and alternative designs, new technology, verification, and approval for operation. DNV GL will also support this process as an independent third party.