The world's most beautiful nature deserves gentle care. With the tourist ship "Vision of the Fjords", Norway is leading the way in environmentally friendly transportation.
Published: 28 June 2017
"This is actually yesterday's news," says Rolf Sandvik, CEO of The Fjords DA.
Vision of the Fjords was designated the Ship of the Year at the world's largest shipping trade fair in Hamburg last year. The award went to the hybrid ship, which runs partly on electricity, due to its mix of environmental awareness and comfort.
The ship turns off its diesel engines and manoeuvres into the most vulnerable areas of the Nærøy Fjord using only eco-friendly electricity. Therefore, neither exhaust or noise ruin experiencing the nature in the inner part of the fjord, which is a part of the Sognefjord and defined as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Nærøyfjord is, according to the UN, one of the world's most beautiful areas with glaciers, huge waterfalls, sea mammals and submarine moraines. On board the Vision of the Fjords, the tourists are transported silently and gently and get even closer to the beautiful nature.
However, as soon as the first of April next year, a new boat will be ready for service, and he promises that it will be fully electric.
"The development process is moving very fast. If we had had the opportunity to go fully electric two years ago, we would have done it. We're taking a big chance on Future of The Fjords, as this entails an additional cost of NOK 44 million on our part, and we're happy that we have Enova and Innovation Norway on board with us," he says.
Sandvik believes that tourists are becoming increasingly aware and making environmentally friendly choices. There has occurred a shift in the market, where nature-based experiences and sustainability go hand in hand. This is important because the cruise tourist market is wholly commercial, with no state funding schemes. Thus, it is the tourists themselves who dictate which operators will survive.
"The competitive edge today entails the cheapest possible vessels and almost exactly the same ticket price. But we strongly believe that travellers choose operators with the lowest emissions. The dream is that all of Norway will become a country for zero emission experiences, and be sustainable in environmental terms," he says.
Sandvik is currently working to find solutions aimed at stopping sewage emissions from ships out in the fjord. He also has contact with the vendors who are developing a floating battery pack that provides power to the ships. That way, they will not be dependent on the local power grid to as great a degree as today.
"Infrastructure is often the constraint. If we must recharge via the local power grid, we'll max out on capacity, and that's not good for the people who live there. With a dedicated floating battery pack, we can expand service to places we would not have believed were possible. We will soon have the possibility of operating in Geiranger Fjord on a fully electric basis, for example, where until now there has not been enough existing capacity in the power grid," he says.
"This also means that the authorities can avoid the need to expand capacity in the power grid all over the place. We expect that this technology will also be of benefit to others. It will revolutionise the market with more charging points for electric cars, electric bicycles and electric buses all over Norway."
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