Just Weeks before its 130th anniversary, Hurtigruten Norway has today unveiled plans for its first zero-emission ship. Initially announced in March 2022, under the project name Sea Zero, the first-of-its-kind initiative has revealed early concept plans for the world’s most energy-efficient cruise ship. Hurtigruten Norway presented the findings alongside its consortium of 12 maritime partners and research institute SINTEF, who have all joined in the pursuit of achieving emission-free marine travel. Tasked with developing energy-efficient and carbon-neutral technology solutions, the consortium shared key findings following its first year of research.
Says Hurtigruten Norway CEO, Hedda Felin, “When we initially announced the Sea Zero project over a year ago, we were faced with the challenge of not knowing which technologies would be available to us in 2030. Our task was to pave the way for new innovations and enhance existing ones to align with our sustainability objectives. While some of these technologies have reached a relatively advanced stage, they still necessitate dedicated research and development to ensure successful implementation within the maritime context. On the other hand, certain technologies are still in early development and require fundamental research and thorough testing. Following a rigorous feasibility study, we have pinpointed the most promising technologies for our ground-breaking future cruise ships. We are committed to delivering a ship that surpasses all others in terms of energy efficiency and sustainability within just a few years,”.
In line with its focus on sustainable operations tailored to the Norwegian coast, Hurtigruten Norway plans for smaller, custom-built ships that leave a positive footprint with zero emissions to both sea and land. With the first ship ready in 2030, the company plans to transform its entire fleet into zero-emission vessels. Since only 0.1% of ships worldwide currently use zero-emission technology, Hurtigruten Norway’s project aims to drastically improve the greater cruise industry’s sustainability record and future of travel.
Hurtigruten Norway’s future ships will be electric and equipped with batteries that charge in port. Combining 60-megawatt battery solutions with wind technology, the initial vessel is expected to feature numerous firsts and improved solutions that do not exist on cruise ships today, including retractable sails with solar panels, artificial intelligence manoeuvring, contra-rotating propellers, and multiple retractable thrusters. Additional technologies include air lubrication, advanced hull coating, and proactive hull cleaning.
Battery levels will be displayed on the ship’s external sides, while the bridge, where the Captain and crew steer the ship, is expected to reduce significantly in size following enhanced A.I. manoeuvring, mimicking that of an airplane cockpit. Hurtigruten Norway has operated along the Norwegian coast for 130 years and has superior knowledge of the 34 ports it stops at daily. The cruise line pans to utilise AI to collect data to determine the most efficient docking and undocking methods for each port, improving in-port operations in bad or challenging weather.
The three retractable, autonomous wing rigs will comprise 1,500m² (16,146 ft²) of solar panels and a total wind surface of 750m² (8,073ft²), reaching a maximum height of 50m (164 ft) when fully extended.
Hurtigruten Norway is also striving for superior guest comfort and spectacular views on board its first zero-emission ship. A streamlined shape will result in less air resistance, reduce energy use, and increase passenger comfort. In addition to ample outdoor space, enlarged surface areas with dedicated windows will allow for unparalleled views of what is often described as ‘the world’s most beautiful coastline.’
“We are developing the concept for the world’s most innovative cruise design and researching to find the optimal design methods suitable for zero-emission ships”, say Henrik Burvang, Research and Innovation Manager at VARD, the design and shipbuilding company behind the concept visuals. “The streamlined shape, with its innovative hull and propulsion solutions, not only reduces energy demand but also increases passenger comfort. In the process, we are developing new design tools and exploring new technologies for energy efficiency.”
Guests will play a key role in minimising energy consumption through an interactive mobile app, where they can operate ultra-modern cabin ventilation, as well as measure their own water and energy consumption.
Sea Zero has now entered a two-year phase in which the proposed technologies will be tried, tested, and developed further in pursuit of the final zero-emission ship. The current research and development phase focuses on battery production, propulsion technology, hull design, and sustainable practices that reduce energy use to an absolute minimum. Developing new technologies for onboard hotel operations, which can consume up to 50% of the ship’s total energy use, will also be crucial to the project’s success and the goal is a 50% energy reduction compared to Hurtigruten Norway’s current ships.
At the same time Hurtigruten Norway is working towards its first zero-emission ship, the company is also currently undertaking one of the most extensive environmental upgrades in European maritime history with its existing fleet. Two of its seven ships have been upgraded to battery-hybrid-powered ships, with a third to be upgraded this fall. Five other vessels are being outfitted with various technologies that will cut CO² emissions by 25% and NOx (nitrogen oxides) by 80%. In 2019, sister company Hurtigruten Expeditions introduced the world’s first battery-hybrid-powered ship, MS Roald Amundsen, with this arm of the Group now operating three battery-hybrid ships out of its seven-ship fleet.
The new zero-emission ship is modelled at 135m long, with 270 cabins that hold 500 guests and 99 crew. Just as Hurtigruten Norway has been transporting cargo along the Norwegian coast for 130 years, the new ship will also have a significant cargo hold and transport cars.
Commenting on today’s announcement, Damian Perry, Managing Director, VP Sales & Marketing, Asia-Pacific is delighted. “As our recently released annual ESG Report shows, we’re incredibly passionate and committed to improving our sustainability efforts and we know this ethos resonates strongly with our Australian and New Zealand guests. We also pride ourselves on actually ‘walking the walk’. We’re an innovative organisation working towards developing a sustainable future that we are confident can change the course of the cruising industry and Sea Zero really speaks to the very heart of why we do what we do.
He adds, “It is also an immense privilege to be a part of something that is quite literally a world first – a zero emission ship, which puts us light years ahead of our competitors in terms of innovative development – and much needed, recalibration of the cruise industry”.