By traveling on modern cruise ships, we inevitably leave our (carbon) footprint, in an ironic twist of fate destroying the nature we have come to admire.
That could soon change, at least along Norway’s beautiful fjord landscape. Weeks ahead of its 130th anniversary, cruise line Hurtigruten has unveiled the concept design for its first-ever zero-emission ship.
Cruise ships are below the most polluting way of travelling. They use massive amounts of fuel and produce a ridiculous amount of waste. Noise pollution from the engines disturbs marine life, damages the sensitive hearing of dolphins and killer whales and destroys entire ecosystems.
Meanwhile, some economies depend on cruise ships and their passengers. Norway as a whole may not be fully dependent on Hurtigruten revenues. However, the communities along the route rely on regular visits from the cruise ships for their livelihoods.
Batteries supplemented with sun and wind
Meet Sea Zero, “the most energy-efficient cruise ship in the world,” according to Hurtigruten and its 12 maritime partners for the project. The ship will have 60 watt batteries that will be charged with renewable energy (while Norway is a huge oil and gas exporter, 98% of domestic energy consumption comes from renewable sources) in the harbour.
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This is complemented by wind and solar energy from retractable sails with solar panels, to charge the batteries while sailing. These will extend to a maximum height of 50 meters with 1500m² of photovoltaic panels and a wind area of 750m².
Sea Zero also includes what the company calls “other firsts,” including artificial intelligence maneuvering that mimics an airplane’s cockpit. Other new additions include counter-rotating propellers and multiple retractable thrusters.
To meet the company’s 2030 launch target, the 135-meter streamlined design must enter service by 2027 at the latest. Current R&D is focused on battery manufacturing, propulsion technology, hull design and sustainable building practices.
“After a thorough feasibility study, we have identified the most promising technologies for our pioneering future cruise ships,” said Hedda Felin, CEO of Hurtigruten Norway. “We are determined to deliver a ship within a few years that surpasses all others in terms of energy efficiency and sustainability.”
Catering accounts for 50% of energy consumption
The 500 guests in the 270 cabins (served by a crew of 99) are invited to reduce their own energy consumption through an interactive app. Hurtigruten says it will also be “critical” to develop new technologies for today’s energy-intensive onboard hotel services.
Currently, only 0.1% of the world’s ships use zero-emission technology. A large cruise ship can have the carbon footprint of 12,000 cars. And yet figures from the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) show that the industry will see record highs in both passengers and revenue this year. In addition, passenger numbers will grow to 12% above pre-COVID levels by 2026.
If there’s anything left to admire as we cruise by (unless, of course, you’re just there for the aqua theaters, deck cocktail bar, and improv), we need more initiatives like Sea Zero and fast . Although, of course, if Norway keeps up its oil and gas production, zero-emission cruise ships could just be a blimp in the ocean.