Gard to Insure Autonomous Vessels

Marine insurance provider Gard revealed plans to provide insurance to autonomous ships in the future.

Gard said it “is looking forward to providing Hull and Machinery and P&I insurance to what will become the one of the world’s first autonomous container ships with zero emissions — the Yara Birkeland.”

Norwegian fertilizer producer Yara International and compatriot maritime technology expert Kongsberg teamed up earlier with Marin Teknikk on designing and building the ship. Yara Birkeland is to transfer the company’s products from the manufacturing site to port.

In addition to operating without crew, the ship is battery powered and is designed without ballast tanks. It will also be equipped with an automatic mooring system – berthing and unberthing will be done without human intervention, and will not require special implementations dock-side.

“Yara Birkeland is a game-changer that will set a new standard in the maritime sector,” Bjørn Tore Orvik, Yara project manager for the Yara Birkeland, said.

It was Orvik’s idea to build an autonomous, electric ship, and he sees a potential to shake up the entire industry. The Norwegian government has allocated some NOK 133 million (USD 16 million) in funds, while the total cost of the project is estimated at NOK 400 million.

Yara Birkeland, with a length of 79.5 meters and a service speed of six knots, is scheduled to enter service in 2019, initially operating as a manned ship with a captain and small crew located in a container-based bridge and crew unit.

It will sail on two routes within one of the Norwegian fjords — between Herøya and Brevik, a distance of some seven nautical miles, and between Herøya and Larvik which is 30 nautical miles — carrying chemicals and fertilizer. The aim is for fully autonomous sailing from 2020.

Norway was the first country to announce a dedicated testing area for autonomous ships back in 2016 and Norwegian companies are now developing the technology for autonomous ship operation.

Gard said it is collaborating with Yara and participating in industry, academic and legal fora to ensure the association and its members understand the risks and rewards of autonomous ships.

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