Can cruise ships be truly sustainable? Norway’s Hurtigruten is dead-set on it as it sets a zero-emissions target.
Cruise ships are known for their excess—lugging amenities and producing waste all across the open seas. But Norwegian cruise company Hurtigruten wants to change that with a target launch for its first zero-emissions cruise ship by 2030.
In a new research partnership with Trondheim-based research institute SINTEF, the nearly-130-year-old Hurtigruten will look at redesigning propulsion and ship design to make its fleet more sustainable, including an assessment of technology viability. Electric, hydrogen, and solar power are all being used in boats and yachts currently to reduce emissions.
According to Hurtigruten Group CEO Daniel Skjeldam the project is its “most ambitious sustainability initiative to date.” The announcement comes as a UNESCO deadline nears that will prohibit ships that aren’t emissions-free from entering the World Heritage Norwegian fjords.
“We have followed developments in technology and have seen that the infrastructure has come so far that now it was right to give full throttle,” Skjeldam told e24. He believes the technology will move Hurtigruten into compliance before the 2026 UNESCO deadline.
To date, nearly half of its ships that operate on the coastal route have been converted into hybrids. The rest are expected to make the shift by 2024. Updates to the fleet will see emissions drop by 25 percent and nitric oxide decline by 80 percent, the company says.
It’s a shift that has been underway for years, leading the industry. The Times ranks it second in sustainability behind Carnival. But it’s aiming to achieve net-zero by 2030—20 years ahead of Carnival, which could move it up to the top spot along with its other commitments such as eliminating single-use plastic.
Hurtigruten launched the MS Roald Amundsen in 2019; it was the world’s first battery hybrid-powered cruise ship. Last August, the MS Otto Sverdrup became its third battery-powered hybrid. Last October, Hurtigruten Expeditions’ battery-hybrid powered MS Fridtjof Nansen was named the safest and most sustainable cruise ship in the world by Scope ESG Analysis.
“[W]e are thinking about what tourism will be in the future,” Hurtigruten Norway CEO, Hedda Felin, said.
“We have built our last fossil-fueled ship for the Norwegian Coastal Express. When we sail the coastal route for the next 100 years, it will be emissions-free, making the world’s most beautiful voyage even more spectacular,” she added.
In addition to its cruise offerings, Hurtigruten’s fleet also move cargo and provide local ferry services for coastal communities between Bergen and Kirkenes, the company says.
The announcement comes on the heels of a new hotel project from Six Senses planned to open in Norway in 2024. The 94-room Svart would be the first world’s first energy positive hotel. The carbon neutral and entirely off-grid luxury hotel will be located at the bottom of the Svartisen glacier.
Hurtigruten and Svart will also benefit from a new campaign partnership between The European Travel Commission and The Nordic Council of Ministers. The campaign is aimed at boosting travel across the Nordic countries following the pandemic.
Hurtigruten Group is also addressing diversity in the cruise industry. Earlier this year it created the Black Travel Advisory Board, which held its first meeting on an Antarctic cruise in February.
According to Stephanie Jones, chairwoman of the board and founder and CEO of the Cultural Heritage Economic Alliance, not all cruise ships have a diversity issue, but for many going to colder climates, like Hurtigruten, that’s often the case.
“I always use myself as an example. When Hurtigruten reached out to me and said, ‘We want you to go to Antarctica,’ I’m like, ‘Do I really want to go to Antarctica?’ she told Travel Weekly in a recent interview. “The first thing you think about is the cold, and that’s not just me. A lot of people think it’s such an unappealing place to want to visit because it’s so cold. And what is there to do in Antarctica? It was very smart of them to invite the board on one of their cruises so that we could experience it,” Jones said.
“For the board to be on that cruise and share with our networks and social media, and for other Black people to see a group of Black people in Antarctica, how often does that happen? It really started a conversation.”