Designing a cruise ship fit for the future

Gerry Larsson-Fedde of Hurtigruten outlines to Rebecca Gibson how the Norwegian operator plans to achieve its goal of building and operating its first zero-emission cruise ship by 2030

Designing a cruise ship fit for the future

By Alex Smith |

Hurtigruten has an ambitious goal: to begin operating the world’s first zero-emissions cruise ship along the Norwegian coast by 2030. To achieve this aim, the operator is collaborating with a consortium of 12 maritime partners and research institute SINTEF to find the most promising technologies for powering the ship.  

Following a feasibility study, the consortium has produced concept plans for a fully electric 500-passenger vessel, which will operate using 60-megawatt batteries that will be recharged with energy derived from renewable sources while berthed in ports. The 135-metre-long vessel will also have 164-foot retractable sails with solar panels, contra-rotating propellors, multiple retractable thrusters and an air lubrication system. It will also have a streamlined hull to reduce both energy consumption and air resistance, while at the same time increasing passenger comfort.  

“Our aim is to cut the total energy consumption of the ship by 50 per cent, compared to our current vessels,” says Gerry Larsson-Fedde, chief operating officer of Hurtigruten. “We’ve chosen technologies we think will realistically be ready to power zero-emissions operations by 2030, although many of them still need rigorous research, development and testing to confirm they can be safely and successfully implemented onboard a ship. We’ll spend the next two years doing this and then we’ll move on to the pilot stage.”  

Hurtigruten zero emission ship

Each partner in the consortium is dedicated to a specific research area. “Some of the organisations are investigating propulsion technologies, others are looking into battery production, hull design, sustainable design and circular practices, and the port infrastructure updates required to accommodate zero-emission ships,” says Larsson-Fedde. “We’re also exploring how we can make hotel operations more efficient because they currently account for up to 50 per cent of total energy usage on passenger ships.” 

Hurtigruten will also use an artificial intelligence-powered system to capture data about the weather conditions, currents, sailing speeds, the ports, and many other factors that affect how its ships operate. 

“We call at the same 34 ports year around, so we’ll be able to gather an enormous volume of data and analyse it to pinpoint patterns and trends to help us learn how to operate and manoeuvre the ship in a safer, more energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable way,” says Larsson-Fedde. “We’ll be able to optimise route planning, sailing speeds and engine use, and identify the most efficient docking and undocking methods for each port. Bridge crew will have instant access to accurate real-time information to help them make well-informed decisions while sailing, which will be particularly beneficial in bad weather and rough seas.”  

In addition, Hurtigruten will be able to use the data to train crew. “We can simulate the realistic conditions bridge teams will encounter at different times of the day or year, so they can practice how to operate in those situations,” says Larsson-Fedde. “This will help them confidently make the right decisions when they arise in real life, increasing safety.” 

While Larsson-Fedde is confident that Hurtigruten will achieve its 2030 goal, he admits one barrier is that port infrastructure will need to be redeveloped to accommodate fully electric ships.  

“We’ll need to charge the vessel’s batteries multiple times during our itineraries, so we’ll need ports with shore power facilities and capacity to provide sufficient energy,” says Larsson-Fedde. “We’re already discussing this with ports and the government to ensure we can develop infrastructure that any vessel operators can use. This will deliver maximum return on investment.”  

The Sea Zero project is part of Hurtigruten’s wider environmental, social and governance strategy, which has already seen the brand embark on “one of the most extensive environmental upgrades in European maritime history”. To date, it has converted two of its existing vessels to operate with battery hybrid power and will upgrade a third ship in autumn 2024. It is also outfitting five vessels with technologies that will cut emissions of carbon dioxide by 25 per cent and nitrogen oxide by 80 per cent. 

“Hurtigruten has always been at the forefront of green shipping,” says Larsson-Fedde. “We want to show others that it’s possible to build zero-emission passenger ships and give them the confidence to embark on similar projects. If we collaborate and share ideas, we’ll make the industry greener and safer for everyone.” 

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2024 issue of  Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe  for FREE to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox.  

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