Norwegian cruise venture Northern Xplorer and Portuguese shipbuilder West Sea have signed a Letter of Intent for the construction of the company’s maiden vessel. The vessel features ABB’s fully electric propulsion system, including the battery and hydrogen fuel cell technology that will enable it to sail emissions-free in the Norwegian fjords and further afield as the green shift takes root.

‘This is a new milestone on our journey towards emission-free cruising,’ says Northern Xplorer (NX) founder and CEO Rolf André Sandvik. ‘Having approached yards worldwide for tenders, we’re delighted to be embarking on this exciting project with West Sea.’

West Sea intends to build the 250-passenger vessel at its facility in Viana do Costello north of Porto. Its cruise newbuilding portfolio to date includes the 200-passenger World Navigator (built 2021), World Voyager (built 2020) and World Explorer (built 2019), the first three in a series of seven high-end polar expedition vessels for a renowned luxury cruise operator. The new vessel is expected to be delivered at the start of the 2025/2026 cruise season

NX and ABB are currently in dialogue with multiple sub-suppliers for vessel systems. ‘We haven’t made any final decisions yet because we want to go with the newest technology as it becomes available. Where possible, we also aim to select the most sustainable materials available in the market,’ Sandvik adds.

NX has worked closely with Oslo-based Affinity Offshore AS to select the shipyard. Clarksons Securities AS acts as lead manager on the project, while Multi Maritime AS in Førde designed the ship.

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Fossil fuel-powered ships banned from fjords from 2026

The Letter of Intent is an important step towards creating a new paradigm in the cruise industry and to meet Norway’s decision to ban fossil fuel-powered ships from its world-heritage fjords from 2026. ‘Discerning travellers want to cruise with a clean conscience, and with this ground-breaking green ship we aim to cater to that strong demand,’ says Sandvik.

Sandvik previously commissioned the hybrid-electric sightseeing vessels Vision of the Fjords (built 2016) and Future of the Fjords (built 2018) in his former role as founder and CEO of tourism company The Fjords. Constructed by specialist Norwegian shipbuilder Brødrene Aa, both vessels won the “Ship of the Year” award during maritime trade fair SMM in Hamburg in their respective delivery years.

Picture: Design rendering of Northern Xplorer’s zero-emission cruise ship (photo: Multi Maritime).

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