How Hurtigruten remains sustainable to the core

Kris Willassen tells Rebecca Gibson how Hurtigruten is balancing its mission to help guests explore the world with its goal to minimise its impact on the environment

How Hurtigruten remains sustainable to the core
Roald Amundsen made a historic journey through the Northwest Passage in September 2019 (Image: Karsten Bidstrup)

Since it was founded in 1893, Norway-based operator Hurtigruten has sailed coastal and expedition cruises to some of the most environmentally sensitive areas in the world, such as Norway’s fjords, Iceland, Greenland, the Northwest Passage, Alaska and Antarctica. The brand is acutely aware of its responsibility to protect these destinations for the local communities and future generations of explorers.

“We’re investing billions in green technologies, single-use plastic alternatives, building hybrid electric-powered newbuilds and retrofitting existing vessels with batteries and engines that run on fossil-free liquified biogas,” says Kris Willassen, itinerary planner at Hurtigruten. “Our aim is to create the greenest fleet in the global cruise industry.”

However, Hurtigruten’s quest for sustainability does not stop there. “Sustainability is at the core in everything we do,” says Willassen. “We prioritise it at every stage of the itinerary planning and execution process – from our initial discussions on fleet deployment, to the moment we welcome the first guest onshore in some of the most spectacular destinations on our planet. It’s the small steps that collectively make a big difference.”

Guided by the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators and the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators, Hurtigruten aims to go above and beyond to minimise the impact its ships and guests have on every destination they visit. To achieve this, Willassen’s team works closely with local communities – before during and after each cruise ship call.

“We’re guests in these destinations, so we want to ensure that every shore visit enriches the lives of the local communities, as well as our passengers and crew,” he explains. “Our aim is to only ever leave a footprint that we’re proud of.”

As part of this, Hurtigruten has limited the number of people going on shore at any given moment to avoid overcrowding small ports and villages. It also regularly invites locals onboard the ships.

“When locals come on our ships, it gives us the opportunity to learn more about the impact our calls have on their lives and the destinations and the available shore excursion options,” says Willassen. “At the same time, it enables locals to learn more about Hurtigruten and our mission. We did this when Roald Amundsen called at Ulukhaktok, Canada as part of her transit of the Northwest Passage in September 2019 – the first time that a hybrid-powered cruise ship has sailed the route.”

Hurtigruten’s pursuit of sustainability also guides logistical decisions. “When crafting itineraries, we look closely at the supply chain to ensure that everything from crew exchange to waste handling is carried out smoothly, efficiently and sustainably,” says Willassen.

The brand also aims to avoid long passages between ports or landings.

“This allows us to lower our cruising speed and fuel consumption, thereby reducing our emissions and the environmental impact of our ships,” explains Willassen. “One of the best parts of taking this approach is that it also gives us more flexibility, providing us with time to stop if we spot something interesting along the way, such as a polar bear and her cubs. It’s the fine details like this that make Hurtigruten’s cruises so popular with our guests.”

This article was first published in the 2019 issue of Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

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Rebecca Gibson
By Rebecca Gibson
10 February 2020

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