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VIDEO: Ponant orders cruise icebreaker with hybrid LNG dual fuel power

Written by Nick Blenkey
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DECEMBER 18, 2017 —Starting in 2021, French luxury cruise line Ponant aims to take passengers where few have gone before—beyond the North Pole on Arctic Ocean crossings to Greenland’s northern coast and to the deepest regions of the icy Antarctic.

The cruise company’s bold vision, however, required a new environmentally sensitive vessel that would be able to operate sustainability in the extreme ice conditions of the polar regions. Ponant has placed a NOK 2.7 billion (about $323 million) order with shipbuilder Vard for what will be the world’s first cruise icebreaker with electric hybrid dual fuel propulsion, featuring high-capacity batteries and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) storage on board.

Developed by Ponant, France’s Stirling Design International, and Finland’s Aker Arctic and Vard, the vessel will be built to Polar Class 2 (PC2)—year-round operation in moderate multi-year ice conditions. The PC2 hull has been designed with Aker Arctic to combine forward sailing modes through compact ice and reverse sailing in extreme ice conditions, using the Double Action principle (Aker Arctic DAS).

The unique and state-of-the-art electric hybrid cruise icebreaker with LNG propulsion is developed by Ponant, Stirling Design International, Aker Arctic and Vard. The vessel is specially designed to take passengers to polar destinations such as the true geographic North Pole (90 degrees North Latitude), the Weddell Sea, the Ross Sea and Peter I Island.

The Ponant icebreaker will be about 30,000 gross tons, about 140 meters long, 28 meters wide, with a draft of 10 meters, and will have a cruise speed of 15 knots in open water. The vessel will be able to accommodate 270 passengers in 135 staterooms, in addition to a crew of 187.

To be classed by Bureau Veritas, the icebreaker will have Wärtsilä dual fuel engines, with powerful Azipod propulsion units supplied by ABB. Its 4,500 m3 capacity LNG storage tanks will be supplied by GTT.

“With this extraordinary tool for exploration we are going to have available, we are working with a brand new concept in travel,” says Nicolas Dubreuil, Head of expedition at Ponant. “The Ponant Icebreaker is going to enable us to visit places previously unexplored until now due to their extreme remoteness. I’ve already imagined winter expedition cruises across the Nunavut ice field, and to Greenland, to get within close proximity of the Inuit camps.

“Our passengers will be able to leave the ship and go out onto the ice for an immersive experience of this hunting people’s way of life. Similarly, we will also be able to get up close to the emperor penguins that inhabit the ice shelves in the Antarctic. As for the Geographic North Pole, it will no longer be an inaccessible dream. Ponant will soon have at its disposal the very first passenger ship capable of reaching this mythical destination.”

Roy Reite, CEO and Executive Director of Vard, says, “This is a really exciting project for us, and we look forward to building the Ponant icebreaker for polar expedition voyages. Vard has a deep experience in icebreaking technology; over generations we have built several highly advanced vessels developed for operations in polar areas. It is a pleasure to continue the excellent cooperation we have with Ponant, Stirling Design International and Aker Arctic.”

The hull will be built at Vard’s Tulcea shipyard in Romania. Delivery is scheduled from Vard Søviknes in Norway, in the second quarter of 2021.

According to Ponant, the icebreaker features perfected “Clean Ship” systems that go beyond the current industry-standard environmental regulations. These include reduction of SO2, NOX, CO2 and particle emissions thanks to the use of LNG and zero emissions when in electric hybrid mode.

Energy management includes an energy optimization system that precisely measures consumptions and optimization of ship sailing methods. A Waste Heat Recovery System is fitted and electric output is optimized and consumption reduced through the use of latest generation electric batteries.

In addition to the Ponant icebreaker, Vard currently has four luxury expedition cruise vessels under construction for Ponant. The first vessel in the series will be delivered in the second quarter of 2018, followed by the delivery of the next three vessels in the period from autumn 2018 to summer 2019.

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