Adventure cruise company Hurtigruten Norway has unveiled its plans for a groundbreaking electric cruise ship equipped with colossal solar sails. Set to embark on its maiden voyage in 2030, this zero-emissions vessel aims to revolutionize the maritime industry and inspire other companies to adopt sustainable practices.
Hurtigruten Norway, currently operating eight ships accommodating 500 passengers each, traverses the Norwegian coast from Oslo to the Arctic Circle. CEO Hedda Felin envisions this new innovation, named “Sea Zero,” as a catalyst for change within the maritime sector. Since its initial announcement in March 2022, Hurtigruten Norway has collaborated with 12 maritime partners and the Norway-based research institute SINTEF to explore technological solutions for achieving emission-free marine travel.
The 60 megawatt batteries at the heart of the ship’s architecture are mostly charged with sustainable energy while it is docked. The majority (98%) of Norway’s electrical system’s power generation comes from renewable sources. These batteries should provide a range of between 300 and 350 nautical miles, requiring seven to eight recharge sessions over the course of an 11-day round journey.
To enhance energy efficiency, three retractable sails, reaching a maximum height of 50 meters, will emerge from the deck when windy conditions permit. The sails can adjust independently, enabling passage under bridges and optimizing wind capture. Adorned with 1,500 square meters of solar panels, they will generate additional energy to replenish the batteries while sailing.
Norway’s unique geography, with abundant sunlight during the summer months and the famed midnight sun, will contribute to the ship’s power generation. The vessel will feature 270 cabins for 500 guests and 99 crew members, boasting a streamlined design to minimize air resistance and reduce energy consumption.
Onboard, guests will have the opportunity to track and minimize their personal water and energy consumption through an interactive mobile app. By encouraging conscious choices, such as shorter showers and responsible use of air conditioning, Hurtigruten Norway aims to raise awareness about individual climate impact.
According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the shipping sector contributes around 3% of the world’s total man-made greenhouse gas emissions. The IMO has set a goal to reduce emissions by at least 50% by 2050 in response. The creation of environmentally friendly sailing vessels has increased as a result, and examples include the Oceanbird vehicle carrier, cargo ships with retractable sails, and superyachts like Oceanco’s Black Pearl.
While these designs often incorporate sustainable features, many still rely on engines powered by fossil fuels. In contrast, Hurtigruten Norway’s electric cruise ship will operate primarily on green fuels such as ammonia, methanol, or biofuel. Although the vessel will have a backup engine for safety purposes, it will maintain a commitment to environmentally friendly power sources.
Hurtigruten Norway has already made strides in sustainable shipping with the introduction of the world’s first hybrid, battery-supported cruise ship in 2019. The company is currently in the process of converting its entire expedition fleet to hybrid battery power. By prioritizing clean oceans, clean harbors, and local suppliers, Hurtigruten Norway aims to lead the way in sustainability and inspire greater ambition across the industry.