In an ambitious move towards carbon-neutral cruising, French luxury cruise and expedition company Ponant has unveiled the design for a revolutionary new cruise ship. As part of their Swap2Zero project, the cruise line is set to launch a uniquely designed cruise ship that blends sustainability with ground-breaking technology.
Ponant operates worldwide with smaller cruise and expedition ships, sailing to ecologically fragile areas such as the Antarctic, the Kimberley in Australia, and as far north as the Magnetic North Pole.
Working Towards Zero Emissions
Ponant has unveiled a pioneering concept cruise ship that aims to become one of the first carbon-zero cruise ships in the world. The ship, set to sail by 2030, will have a suite of state-of-the-art technologies, which Ponant promises will redefine the future of shipbuilding and the maritime industry.
“By 2030, our future ship aims to have zero greenhouse gas emissions when sailing, maneuvering, in port, or at anchor. Her carbon footprint will be reduced throughout her life cycle. Renewable energy supplied by the wind and sun will be combined with low-carbon non-fossil energy associated with fuel cells,” said Hervé Gastinel, CEO of Ponant.
Ponant’s future ship design incorporates a sail power system and hull that gets 50% of the propulsion energy from wind.
The vessel will also have over 1,000 square meters of solar power panels integrated into the structures and sails, low and high-temperature fuel cells, onboard carbon capture technology, and an innovative energy management system.
The proposed cruise ship will house approximately 100 guest cabins and measures an overall length of 181 meters. The naval architecture will be done by Stirling Design International, which is also responsible for the design of Ponant’s ice breaker Le Commandant Charcot. Discussions are ongoing to select the shipyard that will build the carbon-zero cruise ship.
Decarbonization of the Cruise Industry
The new vessel aims to be sustainable and to inspire industry change. In that respect, the design can be easily copied by other cruise ship operators to speed up the decarbonization of the industry.
Gastinel: “This is much more than a new ship. We want to offer a new mode of navigation and actively contribute to the decarbonization of the maritime sector. With Swap2Zero, we are building a French technological showcase to convince other stakeholders to commit to carbon-neutral navigation.”
Simultaneously, Hurtigruten, the Norwegian expedition and cruise company, announced their own ‘Sea Zero’ project in June 2023, adding to the industry-wide push towards zero-emission vessels.
Their plans include 60-megawatt battery packs, wind technology, retractable sails with solar panels, artificial intelligence for efficient docking and undocking, and contra-rotating propellers. The Hurtigruten concept design would be a 135-meter-long cruise ship catering to 500 guests.
A Collective Move Towards Carbon Neutrality
These initiatives represent a significant step towards sustainable cruising, responding to the criticism that the cruise industry has faced over the past decades regarding its environmental impact.
From transitioning to less polluting marine fuels, utilizing shore power, and investing in modern, less pollutant cruise ships, the industry is making significant strides towards becoming carbon neutral.
However, achieving carbon neutrality still presents challenges. Critics argue that the move to Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) may not be as beneficial due to its high methane production during production, and using shore power would only be beneficial if that power is produced without using carbon-based fuels.
The shift towards zero-emission vessels, such as Ponant’’s Swap2Zero project and Hurtigruten’s ‘Sea Zero’ project, represents a turning point in the cruise industry. Their plans offer a glimpse of the industry’s future, where carbon-neutral ships become the norm rather than the exception.