Electric catamaran starts Svalbard voyages | Polarjournal
“Brim” is the first battery-powered catamaran built specifically for Arctic waters. “Brim” is the first of its kind in the high north. The sister ship “Bard”, which is currently under construction, will be deployed in Svalbard from summer 2020. Video: Brim Explorer

Árnadóttir’s company, which she founded together with Espen Larsen-Hakkebo, attracts a lot of attention from visitors to Tromsø in the middle of winter. Not only because of the special design features of the ship. The catamaran sails on a whale watching tour to the fjords of northern Norway without much engine noise, as it is powered by electricity.

“Tourists care a lot about their environmental impact, so the business is obvious,” says Agnes Árnadóttir, co-founder of the Polar tour operator, which is on its way to a zero-emissions future. (Photo: Hareide Design)

The battery-hybrid electric catamaran “Brim” is the first of its kind within the Arctic Circle. “Brim”, the name that means “breaking wave” in Old Norse, is a ship that is praised by passengers. There is no noise or vibration when driving with electric motor. And who wants to pay for noise when the goal is a magical evening outdoors under the northern lights with the sound of silence. The waters outside Tromsø are the winter playground for orcas and humpback whales. The whales follow millions of herring, one of the main food of the whales. During whale watching safaris, the catamaran “Brim” can get much closer to the animals without disturbing them. In the summer season, the ship will sail the Lofoten archipelago.

When “Bard” starts sailing on Svalbard this summer, the Russian settlement Pyramiden will be one of the destinations that can be reached by battery power from Longyearbyen. (Photo: Buibuione, Wikicommons CC-BY SA 4.0)

The second ship named “Bard” is being built further south in Norway. In few months, new waters for electric boats can be explored. From the port of Longyearbyen on Svalbard, the “Bard” will take tourists to some of the summer, the “Bard” will take tourists to some of the most remote destinations in the Arctic, Pyramids and Barentsburg. Brim Explorer has partnered with Hurtigruten, the largest tour operator on Spitsbergen, and will operate the daily Catamaran excursions to the pristine waters of Isfjord. “We have around 800 kWh of batteries on board, which is equivalent to about ten Tesla car battery packs,” explains Agnes Árnadóttir.

Batteries are not so green, however, if the electricity used to charge them comes from dirty fossil fuels. This is a challenge in Longyearbyen, where Norway operates its only coal-fired power plant to supply the 2,400 residents with electricity and heat. “We want to charge the batteries in the port with a new pilot solar power plant,” Árnadóttir explains.

The high Arctic may not be the first place to think that solar energy might not work as a new energy source. But exactly that is it. At 78 degrees north in the summer, when the tourist season reaches its peak, the sun is above the horizon around the clock. “Svalbard is the place where we can do well with renewable energy in the summer,” say Árnadóttir enthusiastically.

Agnes Árnadóttir, CEO Brím Explorer, firmly believes that Arctic tourism of the future must be environmentally friendly and emission-free. Photo: Jo Straube via Flickr

“The Times are getting greener. Travelers to the Arctic prefer smaller expedition ships instead of larger cruise ships. The tourists care about the environment. We are sailing toward a zero-emissions future, and the Arctic is the most obvious starting point.” Agnes Árnadóttir says it’s no coincidence that this is happening in Norway is happening. “Norway has a good and strong shipbuilding industry. There are good government incentives for green shifting. Look at the success of electric cars,” she says. Sales of fully electric vehicles in Norway reached a record high in 2019, accounting for 42 percent of all newly record high. Even the country’s border guards in the north are patrolling with electric bicycles on the country’s border with Russia.

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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