The Fjords DA has confirmed that it’s building a sister ship to the striking diesel-electric plug-in hybrid Vision of the Fjords, launched in 2016. However, unlike its predecessor, this 42m long carbon fibre vessel will be all electric and completely emission free. The aptly named Future of the Fjords launches in April 2018.
Currently under construction at specialist shipbuilder Brødrene Aa, the new vessel retains Vision of the Fjords’ eye-catching ‘mountain path’ design and environmentally friendly build, with a hull that minimises wake and reduces shoreline impact erosion. It too offers up to 400 passengers jaw dropping panoramic views of the Western Norwegian fjords, with a guaranteed 1m each of railing on deck for a unique ‘front row’ experience of nature.
But it’s there, according to The Fjords CEO Rolf Sandvik, that the similarities stop.
“Under the skin this new craft is a different beast,” Sandvik explains. “Vision of the Fjords switches from diesel to electric power when entering the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Nærøyfjord. It represented an important step forward on our journey to transform tourism in this delicate natural wonderland, but this new ship is, quite simply, our dream come true. It marks the fulfilment of a vision.”
He continues: “It not only provides an optimal passenger experience, with the only noise being the fjords’ natural soundtrack, but it also showcases a new, zero emissions way to enjoy and safeguard this fragile landscape. The vessel will be totally different to anything else on the water, showing what can be achieved with the determination, investment and ambition to operate responsibly and sustainably. We want this to be a paradigm for the industry. We believe this really is the Future of the Fjords.”
The new DNV GL classed ‘light craft’ will be propelled by two 300kW electric motors, enabling cruising speeds of 16 knots along the spectacular fjord route between Flåm and Gudvangen. Work to develop the charging infrastructure to enable its planned 700 trips a year is currently in the early stages, with local supplier Aurland Energiverk at the vanguard. Alongside the changes to the propulsion system, Future of the Fjords will boast upgraded IT systems, to ensure it meets the digital demands of tomorrow, and a refined restaurant and comfort levels.
“Responsible operation is one focus, the best possible passenger experience the other,” Sandvik notes. “This is a ship that will draw people from around the world to experience the fjords in a manner that no other craft can emulate. It’s a trip of a lifetime and we want to make our passengers’ memories of their voyage as enjoyable as possible.
“By introducing another vessel of this class we’re also able to expand the premium capacity on this special waterway. That leads to some economy of scale and will help keep ticket prices at very attractive levels. We, and our progressive owners Fjord1 and Flåm AS, are determined to make this as accessible as possible. We want everyone to have the opportunity to experience the Future of the Fjords.”
Future of the Fjords will cost NOK 144 million (approx. USD 17 million), marking a significant increase over Vision of the Fjords NOK 90 million price tag. Much of the extra investment is the result of opting for an all-electric solution. Thankfully Enova, an organization promoting low emission solutions and backed by the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, has provided NOK 17.8 million to help the project come to fruition.
“This is a big and important leap forward in the ongoing maritime battery revolution, with The Fjords now taking us one step closer to an emission-free transport sector,” comments Petter Hersleth, Enova Marketing Manager. “We believe that Future of the Fjords will help inspire the travel industry to adopt battery-powered vessels faster, both here in Norway and abroad.”
Norwegian-headquartered environmental campaigner Bellona is also supporting the project. Frederic Hauge, Bellona’s Founder and President, says the new ship marks a “fantastic” development for tourism in the region and states that the Fjords are “an example to follow for the rest of the industry.”
He adds that tighter regulations from both national and local authorities are now required to protect the area, noting: “We must dare to define requirements regarding how our precious World Heritage fjords are managed and experienced. In the future tourists coming to see our pristine nature will not accept anything less than emission-free experiences. The Fjords is now demonstrating that this is possible, from both an operational and business perspective.”
In total, The Fjords operates seven tourist ships in the Western Norwegian fjords, providing the only year round voyages. With the backing of Fjord1 and Flåm AS, the shipowner has embarked on an ambitious programme of fleet renewal to provide vessels that deliver optimal passenger experiences with minimal environmental impact.