Inspiring wonder and environmental understanding

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises has a wealth of experience and knowledge when it comes to expedition sailing. Susan Parker asks company executives how this helped when building the new Hanseatic-class ships

Inspiring wonder and environmental understanding
Although the Hanseatic-class ships are designed for polar regions, they also sail to warmer destinations like the Amazon

Officially inaugurated into Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ (HLC) fleet in October 2019, Hanseatic Inspiration is one of three new expedition cruise ships built to the highest ice-class rating (Polar Code 6). Hanseatic Inspiration, which is targeted at the international market, joins Hanseatic Nature, which debuted for the German market in May 2019. Hanseatic Spirit, also designed for the German market, will start service in May 2021.

HLC plans to sail these vessels to remote destinations, such as the McMurdo station, which is located south of Antarctica and is planned as a calling point on a 32-day, 6,800-nautical-mile roundtrip from Ushuaia, Argentina. As these are likely to be the most extreme conditions the ships will sail in, HLC used this as a design point for the Hanseatic-class vessels.

HLC, which was the first cruise operator to sail the Northwest Passage, is adept at satisfying the Polar Ship Certificate, which became mandatory from January 2018. In fact, its expedition ship Bremen was one of the first to receive the certificate after two years of preparation and HLC has been instrumental in the Polar Code’s evolution.

“Together with Hurtigruten’s and Ponant’s new vessels, ours are the first ships to be certified,” says Henning Brauer, former head of newbuilds at HLC. “The Code has been produced to exceed all local and national rules, so we came up with umbrella rules and we’re taking into account that the northern seaways have less ice now.”

The Polar Code had a significant impact on how HLC designed Hanseatic Inspiration and her sister ships. To demonstrate the huge undertaking that was involved, Brauer explains that there is a 47-page document relating to the Polar Code which is specific to each ship. As the code states that the impact of icebergs must now be calculated differently, HLC had to increase the amount of steel used in the hull. Similarly, rules relating to vessels being punctured have also been updated, so HLC had to make damage stability much heavier than in the past. “The amount and way of building bulkheads is increased significantly so we have to increase the size of the ship by 10-15% to fit everything into the vessel,” comments Brauer. In addition, stricter rules require the ice belt that encircles the hull to be wider, higher and reinforced. “This has added another 200 metric tonnes of steel,” notes Brauer.

The code also states that the survivability of the passengers should be guaranteed if they have to disembark in lifeboats. To achieve this, lifeboats must now be covered and have heating, and carry around 30 cubic metres worth of survival equipment, including tents, cookers, food rations, fishing hooks, sleeping bags, thermal suits and headcuffs and overboots. Consequently, the Hanseatic-class ships have bigger lifeboats than other ships.

HLC’s long history of operating expedition cruises hasn’t just been helpful for building the vessels; it’s also been essential in attracting high-quality crew and expedition experts to sail on them.

“We have two big advantages: we have very good ships and very interesting itineraries,” says Isolde Susset, HLC’s director of expedition cruises and travel. “It’s quite difficult to find educated and knowledgeable people who speak English and German and want to stay longer on a ship, but we have a lot of captains and crew who like to work with us. When it comes to captains, we usually choose from our existing crew members because they need to have the experience to understand how the ice and the waves are behaving and whether it’s safe to do activities like zodiac tours.”

Susset adds that HLC also has experts who give lectures onboard the ships and help guests explore the destinations. Onboard the Hanseatic-class ships, these experts can often be found in the onboard Ocean Academy, which took two years to develop. The space provides a haven for learning with its interactive digital wall, microscopes and experts like geologist Heike Fries, who is on hand to make even the smallest of rock particles exciting for guests.

In addition, the venue hosts insightful lectures by experts like polar consultant David Fletcher who has sailed with HLC since 1993 and has 15 years with the British Antarctica Survey under his belt (from the 1970s). Despite his ongoing expertise, Fletcher is subject to the same rigorous certification process as every other expedition leader, lecturer and guide who steps ashore in Antarctica.

“There are multiple levels of documentation that have to be fulfilled,” he explains. “We can’t land in South Georgia unless we have a new certificate every season. There’s a flurry of people to get this certificate now because of the extra ships. I know the place like the back of my hand, but legislation changes all the time. You have to be on top of it.”

Fletcher’s mission is to show HLC’s guests what is happening in Antarctica with the hope that they will return home and spread the word. “The greatest ambassadors are the people who come back and want to look after it [our planet],” he says with a deep concern for the environment that is based on experience. “Climate change is a natural phenomenon, but we’ve almost certainly added to the speed of it. We wrote papers back in the 1970s and now it is coming home to roost.”

Protecting the environment is a key part of HLC’s DNA and business strategy. “This year we are banning heavy fuel oil on all our ships,” says CEO Karl J. Pojer. “Marine gas oil is a lot more expensive, but we see it as an investment in the future. If you want to be market leader you must also be an environment leader. I am not only the CEO of a company, but also the father of a 20-year-old daughter. I think environmental sensitivity is increasing.”

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2020 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

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Susan Parker
By Susan Parker
04 May 2020

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