The increasing effects of climate change have made decarbonisation a pressing priority for many industries, including travel and tourism. While 99 per cent of a cruise ship’s emissions is from ship fuel and on-board power generation, ships can also reduce their carbon footprint by reducing waste, sustainable sourcing and other operational improvements.
Hurtigruten are the most sustainable cruise operator in the world. Sustainability is not just important, it’s critical for the cruise industry, says Damian Perry, Managing Director, APAC Region at Hurtigruten. “Now more than ever, we need to recognise the challenges posed by climate change, and how our industry is impacting on others.
“Historically, the cruise industry as a whole, has been a significant negative contributor to the degradation of oceans, communities and cultures, especially in terms of mass tourism and pollution. So it’s really imperative that we take a stand collectively to address these issues.” In 2009 Hurtigruten were the first cruise operator to ban the use of heavy fuel oil in all their operations and in 2020 they launched the world’s first battery- powered hybrid electric cruise ships, MS Roald Amundsen and MS Fridtjof Nansen, followed by MS Otto Sverdrup in 2021. MS Fridtjof Nansen, with its state-of-the-art technology and premium onboard experience, was named “The safest and most sustainable cruise ship in the world” in an independent ranking by Scope ESG Analysis. But it’s not just emissions that have a negative impact on the environment. “Cruise operators are simply being naive if they really believe that destinations like Venice don’t want to see change. Of course they do. So, we really need to alleviate – and ideally remove – the impact of the cruise industry on these communities, many of which are currently being completely overwhelmed by mass tourism, and proactively engage with them to deliver more sustainable solutions,” says Perry.
As well as pushing for stricter regulations in the cruise industry, in 2021 Hurtigruten partnered with Volvo Penta to power Hurtigruten Svalbard’s new hybrid sightseeing vessel. The near-silent vessel has the potential to transform the sustainable tourism industry, allowing guests to experience regions without disturbing the nature and habitat around them. “At the same time, we also really need to tackle the environmental impact of the cruise industry in the longer term, by looking at how we can reduce emissions through innovation of fuel sources and waste management, and move away from short-term solutions. In the small ship expedition sector we’re seeing some progressive development. And in many respects, this sector is leading the industry [along with a select group of larger ships],” says Perry.
Other ways Hurtigruten continue their path towards lower emissions is with electric snowmobiles and buses, increased use of solar panels, and battery- powered catamarans custom built for polar water exploration. All of Hurtigruten’s 14 vessels have been fitted with shore power connectivity to allow elimination of emissions when connected at port with shore power, replacing fuel consumption while in port with electricity from renewable sources.
Sustainability is embedded in Hurtigruten’s DNA, informing every part of their operations. “Many of the sustainability initiatives and innovations that we’ve rolled out across the business have been developed by our own captains, officers and expedition team members, and we actively encourage that enthusiasm for building and delivering better and more sustainable solutions,” says Perry. Hurtigruten have also adopted the UN’s sustainability goals as a framework to keep them on track .
Hurtigruten were the first cruise line to ban single-use plastic in 2018. The initiative came about when a crew member stopped the CEO on a ship and asked why they needed plastic bottles on board. Within six months, they had removed all single-use plastic from the ships, which was a game-changer for the whole industry. “There are no single-use plastics onboard any of our ships,” says Perry.
Hurtigruten have also introduced many other ground- breaking technologies to reduce their impact on the environment. In addition to their low emission battery hybrid powered ships, they have invested more than €100 million towards the upgrade and conversion of their entire fleet to battery hybrid power, shore power and biofuel, which will ultimately reduce emissions by 80%, says Perry.
Their new purpose-built premium expedition ships not only address fuel usage but also feature new water purification and desalination systems; heat recovery systems that repurpose heat across the ship; and purification processes that enable more effective waste management. “Our goal is to deliver zero emission cruising on the coast of Norway by 2030,” says Perry. “This requires significant technological advances and we’re working in partnership with engineering firms right across Europe to deliver on this mission. Already, we’re tapping into a local Norwegian biofuel made from fisheries and agricultural waste, which has helped drive down our emissions by 80 per cent.”
FIGHTING FOOD WASTE
Food waste and supply is another important consideration for Hurtigruten when it comes to sustainability. “It’s really important we have a sustainable food supply and know where it comes from,” says Perry. Hurtigruten support fisheries, farms, butchers, and other small businesses along the Norwegian coast, as they have done for over a century. “We’ve significantly reduced food waste on board our ships by changing the way food is served and delivered to guests. At least 80 per cent of all food on board all our ships is now supplied by local suppliers in each of the regions in which we operate.”
Hurtigruten’s on-board scientists and researchers also monitor the environmental impact of cruising in the areas where they sail. “We’re especially passionate about advocating for a ban on heavy fuel oil, and encouraging sustainable operational practices and innovation right across the industry,” says Perry. This focus is underpinned by Hurtigruten’s science-backed ethos. It’s one of the major points of differences for the company, and central to the experience of passengers. “The heart of the ship is our science centre,” says Perry.
It’s common to run into science researchers and PhD students who are conducting research on the coast. “Guests can actively participate in citizen science projects or [listen to lectures] from Expedition Teams that raise awareness of climate change, ocean plastic, and the measures we can all take to help ease these issues,” says Perry.
PROTECT & PRESERVE
Protecting what they love has been a part of Hurtigruten’s heritage since they began. Over decades, Hurtigruten captains and crew, expedition teams and returning guests have witnessed the impact of climate change on vulnerable polar areas with their own eyes. “We want the Arctic, Antarctica, and everywhere in between to remain places of pristine nature, pure water and clean air. Sustainability is therefore at the heart of who we are and what we do. From the beautiful natural world to remote communities, we want to ensure our expedition cruises protect them both,” says Perry. “Take a moment to talk to many of our captains and they’ll tell you that when they sailed in the Arctic circles even just 20 years ago, glaciers would stretch to the sea. They’ve witnessed firsthand the devastating impacts of climate change and the massive increase in ocean waste on our oceans, our beaches and our wildlife – in the sea and out of it.”