Why green operations are in Viking Line’s DNA

Jan Hanses explains how the operator is continuing to improve its environmental footprint

Why green operations are in Viking Line’s DNA
Viking Glory currently runs on LNG fuel but can switch to operating on biogas or synthetic fuels

By Susan Parker |

When Viking Glory took to the waters in March 2022, almost a decade after sister ship Viking Grace was inaugurated, the vessel produced 10 per cent fewer emissions than its predecessor.  

 “We made the hull more hydrodynamically efficient and we introduced, for the first time, Azipods to speed up manoeuvring in harbours and ports,” says Jan Hanses, CEO of Viking Line. “This saves time, which enables us to slow down in the archipelago and, by doing so, save on fuel [and hence reduce emissions].” 

Both ships are powered by LNG and are already equipped to start using biogas, or synthetic fuels produced from renewable energy, when they become commercially available. “We are doing investigations with Finnish gas suppliers in order to possibly introduce biogas as a first step,” says Hanses.  

The idea is to start with cargo ships, whereby freight owners can pay a bit more for a portion of the biogas being used to provide power. The plan is to then give the same option to passengers. “But that is harder to do as it would be a very small portion of the biogas that one passenger would buy,” notes Hanses. 

Viking Line is also looking at other possibilities to reduce emissions, including synthetic fuel, whereby it would use e-methane combined with energy from wind parks to provide a completely fossil-free fuel. However, Hanses say that before this can happen: “We need the infrastructure to be built up, especially production plants for e-methane fuels. The projects are commencing but I expect it to be a few years before we see the first introduction of those.” 

In the meantime, Viking Line is installing Elogrids on the bow thrusters of its vessel to improve hydrodynamic efficiency. Viking expects to produce a saving of a few per cent on the fuel consumption, and hence carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions. The plan is to roll this out throughout the six-ship fleet during scheduled dry docks. 

Viking Line has also been using shore power on the Helsinki route since the 1990s and vessels now plug in at any port where it is offered.  

The company’s green aim, says Hanses, is to “continue to reduce energy consumption by three per cent a year”. This will involve not only investing in technical solutions but also developing the way the vessels are handled on the routes. He adds: “We also see possibilities to further reduce energy consumption on the hotel load, for example more efficient use of the air conditioning and heating system during the year.” 

Hanses believes that the company’s environmental ethos gives it a competitive edge with passengers on sales, who are the most satisfied and loyal customers of any transport provider in Finland, according to a 2022 EPSI Rating survey. Passengers appreciate both the efforts made to increase the sustainability of both ship operations and the onboard product. 

For example, in terms of food, Hanses says: “Passengers see the way the food is handled in the restaurants in order to minimise waste and also the way that we choose the products we use. It should be sustainable all the way through.”  

Instead of offering large amounts of fish and meat in the buffets, the company provides small portions – as many as guests want – to minimise waste. It also looks for local and sustainable food solutions, for example fish from the Baltic. “Some of our vessels ship the waste for production of biogas [at the moment for other operators],” says Hanses.  

Looking ahead, Hanses, like so many others, is preparing for the European Union’s Fit for 55 plan, which aims to cut net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 per cent by 2030. “We need to make our operation more efficient to balance the further costs it will bring us,” he says. “Grace and Glory are a good start and a platform to develop upon, but I suspect we’ll need some time before we can carry it through.”  

The regulations will require the amount of fossil components in the fuels to gradually reduce but this will need to be balanced with concerns about price mechanisms: “We need to use fuels other than fossil fuels in the future in order to be able to function,” he concludes. 

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe to Cruise & Ferry Review for FREE here to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox or your door.   

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