Hurtigruten Svalbard is testing a ‘near silent’ hybrid boat that could allow tourists to cruise the Arctic archipelago without disturbing local wildlife. Jenny Southan reports

In May 2022, Norwegian cruise line Hurtigruten Svalbard plans to test a “near silent” Marell M15 cruiser called Kvitbjørn (“polar bear” in English) that could allow it to provide fully electric cruises in the environmentally sensitive waters around Svalbard, which is a Norwegian archipelago between mainland Norway and the North Pole.

Among Kvitbjørn’s features is a hydraulic clutch that ensures silent and smooth shifting at low engine speeds, resulting in added manoeuvrability and higher comfort at slower boat speeds – perfect for slow cruising when wildlife watching.

Powered by Volvo Penta’s twin D4-320 DPI hybrid with its Aquamatic DPI, the Marell M15 boat has a top speed of 32 knots and a cruising speed of 25 knots. It is robust enough to operate in the demanding Arctic environment and to run in sub-zero temperatures, with an extensive range of 500 nautical miles.

Daniel Skjeldam, CEO of Hurtigruten Group, says: “We are thrilled to be working with Volvo Penta which is taking sustainable engineering to a whole new level. And what a fitting place to test this hybrid vessel than the beautiful but fragile Svalbard, which is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

“As one of the biggest employers on the archipelago, our Hurtigruten Svalbard team continue to lead the charge in finding innovative ways and partnerships to enable our guests to get even closer to nature in a more sustainable way.”Walrus in ArcticPer Brochmann, CEO of Hurtigruten Svalbard, adds: “Our guests are conscious travellers who want to experience the wonders of Svalbard in its purest form so to be able to offer guests this unique service is hugely important for us as an attractive, sustainable tour operator and local employer. We look forward to testing the hybrid boat with Volvo Penta next year and hearing feedback from the guests and wider Svalbard community.”

Heléne Mellquist, president of Volvo Penta, says: “Our vision is to be the global leader in sustainable power solutions and this new vessel is a great example of how we can move towards that. It’s also special for us to partner with a company like Hurtigruten Group, who share our values around environmental care as well as our Scandinavian love of the natural world.

“It’s clear that if we are going to truly limit the impacts of climate change, we need more collaborations like this. It’s exciting to see more sustainable solutions for the marine industry coming into use and we look forward to driving more of these in future.”

The companies will also test a new pay-by-the-hour business approach. It will be the first time Volvo Penta tests out the concept of “e-mobility as a service” while Hurtigruten Svalbard will trial paying by the kilowatt-hour for operation. The concept could revolutionise investing in marine e-mobility solutions – where upfront costs are often a barrier.

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