US robotic vessel venture Ocean Infinity and Netherlands-based Samskip have scored funding from Norway for a plan to develop remotely-operated, hydrogen-fuelled container ships.

The companies said the green shipping project has scored €15m ($15.8m) in funding from Enova, a Norwegian state-owned enterprise focused on slashing greenhouse gas emissions.

Samskip Norway chief executive Are Grathen said the company, a container ship operator and logistics firm, is leading the SeaShuttle initiative as part of its “making green logistics easy” strategy.

“Securing this funding provides a platform to make emissions-free container shipping a reality,” he said.

“Together, Samskip and Ocean Infinity will also accelerate their plans to advance autonomous ship technologies, and remote operation of ships and cargo handling equipment.”

Texas-based Ocean Infinity said the shortsea container vessels will create one of Europe’s first zero-emission green corridor and will be “autonomous ready”.

The two SeaShuttle ships will travel between the Oslo Fjord and Rotterdam.

“The SeaShuttle project is a substantial step in Samskip’s journey towards zero-emission logistics. Its combination of fuel, technology and operational best practice is expected to make emissions-free shortsea shipping costs competitive with existing solutions,” said Samskip group chief executive Kari-Pekka Laaksonen.

Ocean Infinity and Samskip plan two 500-teu SeaShuttles for delivery by 2025.

They will have hydrogen fuel cell power systems that deliver up to 3.2 MW of power. They will have a diesel-electric propulsion system on board as a backup.

“We have faith that green hydrogen will be affordable and available in Norway,” Grathen said.

The plan aims to build on the green corridors initiative of the Clydebank Declaration during the COP26 climate conference, in which signatories sought to develop zero-emissions shipping routes to jump-start decarbonisation.

“Ocean Infinity’s enabling technologies can facilitate green corridors but also the broader decarbonisation and transformation of maritime operations,” said Ocean Infinity chief commercial officer Christoffer Jorgenvag.

“The emphasis today is on the SeaShuttle vessels, which are just part of Ocean Infinity’s overall strategy of unlocking innovation to deliver truly sustainable maritime operations.”

Ocean Infinity and Samskip unveiled their partnership at April’s Nor-Shipping conference in Oslo.

“These ships are the first part of an exciting collaboration with Ocean Infinity,” Grathen said.