Adventure cruise company Hurtigruten Norway today unveiled plans for a zero-emission electric cruise ship with retractable sails covered in solar panels, due to set sail in 2030.
The company currently has a fleet of eight ships, each with a capacity for 500 passengers, which travel along the Norwegian coast from Oslo to the Arctic Circle. Although a relatively small company, CEO Hedda Felin hopes this innovation “can inspire the entire maritime industry”.
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The project, named “Sea Zero”, was initially announced in March 2022 and since then, Hurtigruten Norway, together with 12 maritime partners and the Norwegian research institute SINTEF, have been exploring technological solutions that can help achieve free sea travel. of emissions.
The resulting project will predominantly run on 60 megawatt batteries that can be charged in port with clean energy, as renewables make up 98% of Norway’s electrical system. Gerry Larsson-Fedde, senior vice president of marine operations at Hurtigruten Norway, who came up with the idea for a zero-emission ship, estimates that the batteries will have a range of 300 to 350 nautical miles, meaning that during a one-way trip and around 11 days, a liner would have to charge about seven or eight times.
To reduce dependency on the battery, when it’s windy, three retractable sails – or wings – rise from the deck, reaching a maximum height of 50 meters. They can adjust independently, shrinking to pass under bridges or changing their angle to catch more wind, explains Larsson-Fedde. He adds that the sails will be covered by a total of 1,500 square meters of solar panels that will generate energy to recharge the batteries during navigation – and battery levels will be displayed on the side of the ship.
“In Norway, although it can sometimes be dark in winter, we still have sunshine in the south. And we have sun 24 hours a day in the summer. We will be super-powered by the midnight sun above all else,” he says.
The ship will have 270 cabins to accommodate 500 guests and 99 crew, and its streamlined shape will result in less air resistance, helping to further reduce energy use. On board, passengers will be invited to minimize their own climate impact through an interactive mobile app that monitors their personal water and energy consumption.
“We want to make them more aware of how much energy they use by spending an extra 10 minutes in the shower or with the air conditioning on,” says Larsson-Fedde.
The shipping industry is responsible for about 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the UN body that regulates global shipping. In 2018, the IMO introduced a target to cut industry greenhouse gas emissions by at least half by 2050.
This has led to a new wave of designs for eco-sailboats, from the ocean liner Oceanbird and various freighters with retractable sails, to Oceanco’s Black Pearl superyacht and cruise ship Chantiers de Atlanique with solid folding sails. But most of them will also rely on fossil fuel engines. Larsson-Fedde notes that while Hurtigruten Norway’s design will have a spare engine for safety reasons, it will run on green fuels such as ammonia, methanol or biofuel.
Hurtigruten Norway has long promoted sustainable transport. In 2019, it launched the world’s first battery-powered hybrid cruise ship and is currently in the process of converting the remainder of its expedition fleet to hybrid battery power.
“We are dependent on the ocean and the environment. This is our product: clean oceans, clean ports, local suppliers,” says Felin. “We want to drive forward and be a leader in sustainability as we believe our industry is too slow and not ambitious enough.”
Over the next two years, Hurtigruten Norway will test its proposed technologies before finalizing the project in 2026 and intends to start production from the shipyard in 2027. The first vessel is expected to enter Norwegian waters in 2030. After that, the company expects to gradually transform the entire its fleet to zero-emission vessels.
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