PONANT is expecting to reveal details of a new carbon-neutral passenger vessel in the coming weeks, the luxury expedition cruise operator’s Global CEO, Hervée Gastinel has revealed today in Sydney.
The 14th vessel in the PONANT fleet has been mooted by the French luxury cruise operator for more than a year, but the vision is nearing reality, with an announcement imminent.
Gastinel is in Sydney as part of a 12-day trip to Australia which has included sailing aboard the fully-refurbished Le Ponant in the Kimberley the past week between Broome and Wyndham.
The 32-guest Le Ponant is currently on its third rotation in the region, with many of the departures in the 2023 season assigned as charters, Gastinel told LATTE.
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It was Gastinel’s first time in the Kimberley and he said the ultra-luxury yacht was an idyllic way to experience the destination for first-time or returning visitors, due to the “calm waters and absolute silence” of the region and the eco-friendly yacht.
Le Ponant was fully refurbished between 2019 and 2022 and had its number of berths consolidated from 32 down to 16, meaning larger accommodations. The Marseilles-based cruise boss sampled the product alongside Sarina Bratton, Chairman of Ponant APAC, and shared some of the moments from the sailing with media at an event in North Sydney.
Cautious with the information he was able to share at this stage about the 14th
vessel, Gastinel did disclose that it will, like Le Ponant, be a sailing vessel and larger than the 35-yo ship currently skirting Australia’s Northwest coastline.
In May 2022, the PONANT chief disclosed the new vessel would accommodate between 100-200 guests and would be very much centred on slow travel with flexible itineraries. He had also earlier flagged the idea of hydrogen as a fuel source.
This morning, delving deeper, Gastinel said of the new ship: “Our sole priority will certainly be to go further in the environmental transition, bringing cleaner ships, a cleaner way to operate.”
“We want to be the best in class in Corporate Social Responsibility and we take that very seriously,” Gastinel said. He highlighted six new commitments to sustainability the cruise line set out to achieve in 2022 and is actively involved in. That includes reducing CO2 emissions by 15% in 2026 and by 30% in 2030, compared to the mark set in 2019; and ensuring full recyclability by 2025.
“The plan is to launch the first-ever decarbonised, carbon-neutral passenger ship in the world. That is a huge challenge, as you can imagine, but our teams are already set up the plan.”
“It will be a sailing vessel, larger than Le Ponant, aiming at achieving 180-metre, and will also embark on new technologies in terms of fuel cells, to be fully carbon neutral.”
“This ship is the next endeavour, and the next commitment from PONANT to deliver a better and more environmentally friendly way of cruising,” Gastinel said of the project, noting that the new technology that will be introduced on Ship 14 will be able to be retrofitted on existing fleet mates.
He wouldn’t be drawn on where and when Ship 14 would launch, but said an announcement was in the pipeline.
PONANT’s next newest ship is the ground-breaking hybrid electric/LNG icebreaker Le Commandant Charcot that is one of the only commercial expedition ships that is capable of accessing some of the most remote corners of earth.
Record First Quarter
The hints around ship 14 comes as Ponant celebrated a record-breaking Q1 in 2023, surpassing its previous achievement by 30%. Simultaneously, Ponant achieved an 80% booking increase compared to the first quarter of 2019.
Those figures resulted in Ponant’s best quarterly sales results in its 35-year history, and cement Australia as the expedition cruise operator’s third largest source market — contributing 20.7% of sales — an achievement Gastinel has placed firmly on the shoulders of Bratton, and her team.
Hervé Bellaïche, PONANT’s Global Chief Sales, Marketing & Communications Officer, added: “This result not only reflects our industry recovery but also highlights PONANT’s ability to stand out in its market.
“The unparalleled quality of service, which has made the company’s reputation over the last 35 years, is more than ever trusted by passengers,” Bellaïche added.
Lead image: As captured by LATTE in North Sydney at PONANT’s Asia Pacific headquarters are: Charles Boutet, Director of Marketing & Communications; Chris Hall, CEO Asia Pacific; Sarina Bratton, Chairman; Hervé Gastinel, President/CEO and Deb Corbett, Commercial Director, Asia Pacific.