The Fjords has confirmed that is building a sister ship to the diesel-electric plug-in hybrid Vision of the Fjords, launched in 2016. However, unlike its predecessor, the aptly named Future of the Fjords, will be all electric and completely emission free. The 42m long carbon fibre vessel launches in April 2018. In total, The Fjords operates seven tourist ships in the Western Norwegian fjords, providing year round voyages.
Construction started two weeks ago, with the contract having been signed two months ago, at specialist shipbuilder Brødrene Aa, shipyard head Torstein Aa told The Marine Professional. 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 panoramic views of the Western Norwegian fjords, with a guaranteed 1m each of railing on deck for a unique front row experience of nature.
“Under the skin this new craft is a different beast,” explains Rolf Sandvik, CEO of The Fjords. “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.”
The new DNV GL classed light craft will be propelled by two 300kW electric motors, enabling cruising speeds of 16 knots along the fjord route between Flåm and Gudvangen. The new vessel will therefore be a bit slower than its predecessor due to the fully electric propulsion, but it will also have a bigger and more efficient propeller. 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, but Enova, an organisation promoting low emission solutions backed by the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, has provided NOK 17.8 million to help the project come to fruition.
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. The batteries will be three times as powerful as the ones on the Vision of the Fjords, and will be charged at each end of the journeys, with an extra supplied access to the grid to not disturb the electricity supply of the inhabitants, says Aa. The battery suppliers have yet to be decided.
“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.”