Norway adopts zero-emission regulations in world heritage fjords

Malcolm Latarche
Malcolm Latarche

04 May 2018


The Norwegian Parliament has adopted a resolution to halt emissions from cruise ships and ferries in the Norwegian world heritage fjords as soon as technically possible and no later than 2026. This will make the fjords the world’s first zero emission zone at sea. The decision will have a positive impact on the local population, transport and tourism, climate and the environment, and the maritime industry.

"For the first time in the world there is a requirement for emission-free sailing in the fjords and their harbours. Norway has long been a world leader in emission-free ferries based on sound political decisions on zero-emission requirements. Now the country is taking a step further in the maritime green shift, that has global repercussions. At the national level, this will mean a welcome development towards emission-free solutions on many tourist ships, a significant decrease in greenhouse gas emissions and a halt to harmful local air pollution,” says Marius Holm, head of the environmental foundation ZERO.

Good opportunity for the maritime industry

The maritime industry is also enthusiastic about the decision. Hege Økland, CEO of the maritime industrial cluster NCE Maritime CleanTech, says the decision will be of great significance for the industry. She compares it to the Norwegian Parliament’s decision from 2015 saying that all ferries in new tenders must have low or zero emission technology. This has led to an electric revolution in the Norwegian fjords, as more than 60 electrical ferries will be seaborne within the next few years.

“Norway has become a world-leading maritime supplier of low- and zero-emissions solutions. The decision on zero-emission fjords can secure our industry's position in this area, so that Norwegian business will be strengthened and we can provide green solutions also to the rest of the world,” says Økland.

Coastal operator on the offensive

Havila Holding AS, one of the operators to ply the coastal route between Bergen and Kirkenes from 2021, believes it is perfectly possible to have emissions-free ships and ferries in the Norwegian fjords within a few years.

“Havila welcomes this decision, and not a moment too soon. We’ll be ready to sail emissions-free with our cruise ships in the fjords as early as 2021,” says Per Sævik, CEO of Havila.

Joy in the fjords

The Norwegian fjords are a huge and popular tourist attraction, and one of the fjords most visited is the Geiranger Fjord in Møre og Romsdal.

Last year, more than 300.000 cruise passenger visited Geiranger and this huge traffic has led to high air pollution becoming a major problem for both tourists and residents. Measurements show that air pollution in the village is periodically so high that it can be a health hazard.

“Tourists come to see pure nature, not fjords full of exhaust. Norway also has an international responsibility to manage its world heritage sites. We have long been seeking concrete action, and are therefore very pleased with this decision on emissions-free fjords,” says Katrin Blomvik, director of the Geiranger Fjord World Heritage Foundation.

A renewable future

The decision means in practice that all cruise and tourist ships currently sailing along the coast of Norway immediately have to plan for how to halt emissions. Existing ships must be equipped for electric propulsion with battery packs and, in the future, hydrogen. Several new ships already have, or are planning, such solutions. In addition, onshore power will be needed in ports to enable ships to recharge when docked.

Emission-free tourist ships are already a reality, as exemplified by the recently completed all electric tourist ship “Future of the Fjords”. It was built in Hyen by Brødrene AA for the Fjords, and will be used for tourist traffic between Gudvangen and Flåm in the Nærøyfjord, which is also a world heritage fjord.