Future of the Fjords is Norwegian-built and fully electric, incorporating innovative solutions from Norway's supply chain
Future of the Fjords, owned by The Fjords and built by Brødrene Aa, is the first carbon-fibre vessel in the world to be fully electric.
It is also the first vessel of its kind to offer completely emission-free transport through the western Norwegian UNESCO World Heritage-listed region.
The Fjords is co-owned by transport operator Fjord1 and Flåm, which promotes tourism opportunities in the Flåm area, northeast of Bergen.
Delivered in April, The Fjords’ all-electric power means the vessel is quiet, has no vibration and most importantly, is emission-free.
The Fjords has developed a unique charging solution called the Power Dock in partnership with Brødrene Aa. This 40-m long, 5-m wide floating glass fibre dock will sit in the water at Gudvangen, housing a 2.4 MWh battery pack, and charge throughout the day from the local grid network. The innovative solution allows the vessel to stably, efficiently and cost-effectively ‘refill’ in just 20 minutes.
The dock is capable of being towed to other locations and stores consumables, fuel for sister vessels and allows black and grey water to be offloaded for treatment on land. This makes Future of The Fjords the only passenger vessel not to discharge sewage directly into the fjords. “This means that we become a real zero-emission ship,” said Mr Sandvik.
Brødrene Aa chief executive Tor Øyvin Aa explained that while the vessel was not a ‘fast ferry,’ using related technology provided advantages. A carbon-fibre vessel weighs less and has reduced fuel costs. Its high strength but low weight structure means maintenance costs are reduced and a high secondhand value can be commanded. The hull has a low wake that creates almost no waves, translating to fuel efficiency as the vessel requires less energy to move. Carbon fibre also means fewer batteries are required, translating into a lower vessel weight, lower price and shorter charging time.
Westcon Power & Automation provided the energy storage and complete system integration. This included its e-SEAMatic Blue energy management system, e-SEAMatic integrated automation system, e-SEA drive power conversion and two e-SEA drive electrical motors at 450 kWh each. There was also an e-SEA manoeuvring control system and the company provided the main switchboards.
Explaining why Westcon won the contract, its manager of sales and business development Frode Skaar said the solution weighed a few less tonnes compared to that used in hybrid electric cruise ship Vision of the Seas. “It was tailor made to the vessel to make it low in weight.” He emphasised that it was important to consider all components of the solution when putting together the energy storage.
The batteries came from LG Chem and were adapted for maritime use by ZEM.
Fjord1 head of projects and newbuildings Arild Austrheim told the audience it was “challenging” because batteries had not been included in carbon-fibre vessels before. But learning and education gained from Vision of the Fjords helped, as did developments in battery technology. The batteries are three times more powerful on this vessel than on Vision of the Fjords, with two 900 kWh batteries compared to two batteries of less than 300 kWh each.
Servogear provided the vessel with its electric Ecoflow Propulsor, which boosts fuel efficiency by using a variable pitch propeller. Servogear managing director Torleif Stokke said “It is about understanding how the forces underneath the hull are working and therefore ensuring that the propeller and hull are designed to work together.”
While he was not able to put an exact figure on the fuel efficiency of Future of the Fjords, he said it was likely to be comparable to the figure the company achieved in a similar model: a fast ferry for 450 passengers where a 30% reduction in fuel was achieved.
As well as boosting fuel efficiency, a large benefit of the solution is that it cuts noise and vibration both in the sea and inside the ferry.
Mr Stokke explained the challenges of cutting noise and vibration. “Propellers have to take all the energy and put it out through the sea. This pressure creates vibrations. If poorly designed, the propeller low frequency noise goes through the structure of the vessel.”
Summing up the project, Mr Sandvik said “Vision of the Fjords was the inspiration to build this ferry. We have used extremely forward suppliers. This has been a joint venture in the new use of technology.”
Ulstein thrives through diversification
When the oil and gas downturn hit, Ulstein quickly recognised it could not wait it out – the company’s choices were to adapt or close down. “For us, the obvious choice was to go on. Closing down was a boring alternative,” said Tore Ulstein in a presentation where he explained the company’s successful diversification.
The company had to find new markets and clients and had to develop new products. Mr Ulstein noted that traditional management literature would advise against such an approach, but the company had no choice, saying “What were our options? We didn’t have any options.”
Ulstein looked at their competencies and the markets to see where there was crossover. One such area was offshore wind, where the shipbuilder saw many opportunities to apply their offshore support expertise. Mr Ulstein explained the wind sector shares the oil and gas sector’s requirements for seaworthy vessels with low motion levels, capable of dynamic positioning operations in harsh weather.
Another area of opportunity was the expedition cruise sector, with its requirement for smaller, robust yet comfortable vessels capable of operating in areas such as the Arctic ocean. Ulstein worked with Lindblad on its expedition cruise vessels and was able to apply its expertise with dynamic positioning systems here while also working on innovative solutions for areas such as launch and recovery of Zodiac boats from the stern of the vessel.
The expedition cruise sector also provides an example of its successful internationalisation, Mr Ulstein said, pointing to a vessel to be built in a Chinese yard to an Ulstein design, with options for a further nine, for Sunstone. He added “We believe this will be a new standard within the exploration market,” as the design combines a competitive price with an “interesting” specification.
Ulstein also sees opportunities in the area of ropax vessels, Mr Ulstein said, noting that while the company has developed these three sector strategies, focused on offshore wind, expedition cruising and ropax, it will remain involved in the oil and gas sector, adding “we are not leaving that, but it will be hard for some time to come.”
While Mr Ulstein recognises his company needs to think larger than the Norwegian market, he said it benefits from its background in the country, which has a lot of strengths in the ocean space due to its maritime heritage in transport, fishing and energy. “There are a lot of opportunities in Norway, we see them and we’re trying to follow them,” he said.