While much of the focus has been on the car and airline industry when it comes to cutting emissions, the shipping industry also needs to change. And the first crewless and zero-emission cargo ship, Yara Birkeland, is a step in the right direction.
Each year, approximately 3% of the world’s carbon emissions come from shipping. However, when you consider that 90% of world trade is through the ocean, that number is actually very impressive.
Yet in the world’s attempt at reaching net-zero, shipping emissions must be cut.
How Far Can It Travel?
The Yara Birkeland is intended for short trips along the coastline of Norway. It is equipped with a 7 MWh battery that can be recharged along the coastline.
The goal of the project is to lower the amount of land transportation, like trucking, taking place. It is estimated that the Yara Birkeland can save 40,000 truck trips per year. Thus, the total carbon savings are enormous.
But wait, there’s more.
This technology also operates crewless, meaning that it is fully automated. While this might sound like a first, it’s not. Instead, that honor belongs to a ferry from Finland in 2018.
Regardless, it will help lower the cost of the entire transportation side. This can save companies and shoppers significantly.
The creators have mentioned that it is unlikely overseas ships will be developed. This is due to a number of reasons, but one would be if different nations have regulations about the technology within.
There are also concerns about if something goes wrong while far out at sea.
The Project Still Faces Multiple Challenges
While the first zero-emission cargo ship is ready to sail, it will still require additional development.
At the moment, it should be ready to sail to smaller ports without much traffic. However, the creators have stated that the largest problem will be crowded ports. These environments would require communication between ships.
Obviously, this is an issue for a crewless ship, thus the AI must be developed to do this.
There’s also the problem if something goes wrong. It will need to be able to request help. That would require identifying the problem so the ship can send out a request for what it needs. Then another ship would need to be sent out with a crew to conduct repairs.
Will This Impact Jobs?
This will undoubtedly affect jobs in the region if it is fully implemented. But to be clear, it would take several years for that transition to occur.
And if it gains popularity, this could affect the industry on a global level. That said, climate change will do the same.
The first impact would actually be on the trucking industry. Cutting out 40,000 trips for trucks is certainly going to lower the number of drivers necessary.
Then there is the crew.
While the ship will not need a crew to operate, it will still need one for loading and unloading. Although eventually, the company hopes to create automatic cranes to automate this process as well.
Yet, it will also create jobs for building these zero-emission cargo ships. Thus, we would not know the full impact for quite some time.
Robert has been following and writing about environmental stories for years at GreenGeeks. He believes that highlighting environmentally friendly practices can help promote change in every household.