Poor air quality has always been a concern with the sailing of traditional cruise ships. However, Norwegian operator Hurtigruten is all set to create a greener future for its fleet and has also achieved a maritime first by powering its hybrid expedition cruise ship MS Roald Amundsen on battery power alone.
MS Roald Amundsen can carry approximately 500 passengers and is designed to sail in turbulent waters. The cruise ship is reportedly named after the Norwegian explorer who navigated the Northwest Passage in 1903-1906, and who reached the South Pole first in 1911. The ship is all set to head for the Arctic from Tromsø and would sail the Northwest Passage to Alaska before heading south. It would reach Antarctica in October. The company took inspiration from Norway’s fleet of hybrid ferries and electric cars. In the context of engines, they run mainly on marine gas-oil. The ship’s battery pack lets it run on DC power for 45-60 minutes under ideal conditions. Compared to ships running solely on marine gas-oil, ships like MS Roald Amundsen reduce fuel consumption and save 20% in carbon dioxide emissions.
Using DC power to propel ships is still a new concept (even on shorter routes), and thus there are few ports providing charging stations. In that context, Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam stated that they expected batteries to be an important power source of shipping in the years to come. He added that they don’t expect their ships to be able to operate solely on batteries because vessels would need to sail up to 18-20 days in areas with no access to charging points.
The future for batteries on larger ships depends mainly on suppliers’ capacity to develop lighter, long-lasting, and more powerful systems. Hurtigruten is already taking strides in this regard, their second hybrid cruise ship, to be delivered later this year, will reportedly have a battery pack with twice the capacity of the one on board the Roald Amundsen.