While some governments and organisations have fallen asleep in regard to addressing climate change during the COVID period – Norway as a leading environmental policymaker – has not.
“Hurtigruten were the very first cruise line to ban heavy fuel oil more than a decade ago and we continue to lobby and lead the fight to ban heavy fuel (HFO),” says Damian Perry, Managing Director of Hurtigruten Asia Pacific.
“HFO is not only extremely difficult to clean up in the event of a spill, but also produces higher levels of air and climate pollutants than other marine fuels. HFO also produces a lot of soot, or black carbon, when it is burned in a ship’s engine. Black carbon is especially harmful in the Arctic where it can settle on and increase the melt rate of sea ice,” Perry says.
The Norwegian expedition cruise company has partnered with leading environmental partners such as Clean Arctic Alliance and European Climate Foundation, spearheading a campaign to ban the use of HFO in Arctic waters. In 2019, AECO, the umbrella industry for cruise tourism, embraced the ban.
And currently, as the International Maritime Organization’s Marine Environment Protection Committee expects to finalise a proposed heavy fuel oil ban for the entire Arctic, Norway has announced plans for more stringent regulation for the waters surrounding Svalbard.
Preserving Svalbard’s landscapes, cultures, wildlife and way of life is a priority for Hurtigruten, a core message conveyed to the company’s guests while travelling on board and ashore.
The archipelago is located between Norway and the North pole. Hurtigruten offers a wide range of expeditions to the destination, mostly six to 10 days in duration and departing from Longyearbyen. Sailings offer expedition-style landings to provide guests close-up Arctic wildlife encounters.
Svalbard’s wildlife includes arctic fox, reindeer, seals, whales as well as polar bears. During summertime, sea birds flock to the archipelago.
“This is the most exciting development in Arctic environmental policy we have seen for years,” Perry said.
“It is one significant step to protect our pristine oceans and vulnerable areas for generations to come and address our industries impact on climate change. It may not be welcome by some companies with ships that sail using heavy fuel oil. But it is welcome by travellers, local remote communities, and the aquaculture industry.”
There are alternatives to HFO and a number of small ship companies have switched to greener low emission solutions. Some new ships are moving to LNG.
“You can be part of the movement to shift boundaries and push the industry forward to make sure our industry’s cruise ships use the cleanest fuel possible and as little fuel as possible to protect our environment and our industry,” Perry says.
Hurtigruten’s ultimate goal is to operate our ships completely emission-free.
“By introducing the world’s first hybrid-electric powered cruise ships, we are taking industry-leading steps. By retrofitting existing ships with large battery packs, shore power and LBG/LNG engines, we are constantly innovating to reach this goal.”
To conclude, Perry asks, “What is your preferred cruise company doing?”
Lead image: Monacobreen, Svalbard | Photo credit: Genna Roland