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3 Ways New Expedition Ships Are Protecting The Environment

A glut of new expedition ships is on the horizon. As the market continues to grow, operators are adding more vessels to their fleets to cope with the extra demand. 2019 will see no less than eight different ships launched, including additions from Hurtigruten, Ponant, Oceanwide and Lindblad Expeditions. But this expansion is simultaneously an exciting and worrying time for the people within the industry and passionate travellers looking to explore the Polar Regions.

On one hand, more ships means that more people can experience these fantastic destinations. Competition could bring prices down and improve the product in general and more ships visiting remote areas such as Alaska, Greenland and Svalbard gives an important financial boost to people living there. However, an increase in visitors to these fragile landscapes creates more of an environmental risk. The potential for a dangerous spillage increases, the carbon footprint created in these regions gets larger and the impact of more people physically exploring these lands becomes greater.

Luckily, though, the newest ships have ways of combatting these concerns. Sven Lindblad, CEO of Lindblad Expeditions; Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam; and other important figures have recently stressed the need to address these issues and the ships their companies are building will do just that.

Battery Power

Hurtigruten's Battery-Powered New Ships

Hurtigruten are leading the way in terms of renewable power for cruise ships. Vessels from their new class (due 2018 and 2019) will be able to switch to battery power in order to reduce emissions and noise. It goes without saying that this will also cut the amount of fuel these ships need to carry, meaning that the there is less chance of a hazardous accident in these waters. It’s hoped that more operators will follow the lead of Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen (the ships, not the explorers) and experiment will more eco-friendly fuel systems.

Smaller Capacities

National Geographic Quest

The CEOs mentioned above have expressed concerns about larger ships that are built for the Mediterranean and the Caribbean heading into polar waters. For a start, authentic expeditions just cannot be operated in the same way on this scale, as guests won’t get the quality of experience they desire. Also, there is a danger that taking thousands of people into these regions at a time will disrupt the fragile ecosystems.

In order to avoid this, specialist expedition lines are ensuring the capacities of their new ships remain low. Certain areas, such as Antarctica, place strict limits on the size of ships that are allowed to land there and the number of people that can go ashore at any one time. Keeping capacities around the 200 mark (the limit in Antarctica) means that guests get more value for their money and have more opportunity to do the very thing they came to do – explore.

Ponant, for example, is currently building four new ships with room for just 184 adventurers. These smaller ships will take passengers to more unique and remote locations and won’t put a strain on resources like larger vessels often do.

Run-Silent Zodiacs

Hapag-Lloyd Zodiac

When protecting the environment in the Polar Regions, it is important to think about the other technology used away from the ship. One such consideration concerns the Zodiacs that take guests to the shore and enable them to explore caves and inlets around the coast. More operators are working with the designers of these inflatable boats to ensure they are as eco-friendly as possible.

Hapag-Lloyd use state-of-the-art electric Zodiacs that have zero emissions and are almost silent when they are in operation. Not only does this remove the need for potentially harmful fuels, it also creates less disruption for the wildlife and results in more opportunities to see these magnificent creatures. Hurtigruten also used specially-designed, battery-powered inflatable boats for their latest season in Antarctica.

It’s encouraging to see that the big names in the industry are striving to combat the environmental concerns that come hand-in-hand with travelling to these areas. They all believe that expedition travel can offer a solution to the problems we have and not continue to perpetuate them. For more information about how the operators we work with act in a responsible manner, call our team for free on 0808 115 3483. We can help you plan your next adventure and match our wide range of Antarctic and Arctic cruises to your specific needs.

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