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Samskip leads initiative on autonomous shortsea shipping

Europe’s multimodal operator Samskip has announced that it will lead an ambitious initiative to develop autonomous, zero-emissions containerships that also aims to operate at a profit.

The project, named Seashuttle, will develop two all-electric ships slated to connect Poland, Swedish west coast ports and Norway’s Oslo Fjord. The vessels will draw on state-of-the-art hydrogen fuel cells for their propulsion power.

The Norwegian government has awarded EUR6m ($6.9m) to the Seashuttle project.

“Samskip is delighted to take the lead in the project to develop next generation sustainable shortsea shipping,” says Are Grathen, managing director of Samskip Norway. “What distinguishes this project and will be key to its success is the combination of fuel and technology that will make it cost competitive with existing solutions. With our trusted project partners, we are convinced that such ambitions are realistic.”

Other Seashuttle partners include logistics consultant FlowChange, technology group Kongsberg Maritime, hydrogen integrator HYON and Massterly, a Kongsberg Maritime/Wilhelmsen venture developing autonomous vessel solutions.

Grathen pointed out that aspirations for sustainability are best encouraged by door-to-door services that provide cost effective and scalable competition with truck-ferry options, feeding into a pan-European distribution network.


Automation of key shipboard activities would also bring cost savings. “Exporters increasingly seek lower and even zero emissions transport solutions, but they need to be assured on reliability, frequency, efficiency and cost effectiveness,” Grathen said.

Once operational, there is no reason why zero emissions ships should not target the 2,000-truck loads passing through Norwegian ports every day, he added.
Final Seashuttle ports of call are yet to be determined, but it is already known that the fuel cell technology will convert hydrogen into power for propulsion in a process where electrolysis is envisaged as taking place in a Norwegian port.

For the moment, the project envisages zero emissions during 20% of a round trip between Poland and the Oslo Fjord – sufficient for all operations in Norwegian waters. That proportion will grow as more stations fill hydrogen along the route.