This zero-emission cruise ship will be co-piloted by AI and powered by solar sails

Passengers will have to wait till the end of the decade to make a voyage on this eco-friendly beauty.
Ameya Paleja
Sea Zero concept with extended sails
Sea Zero concept with extended sails

VARD Design  

Hurtigruten Norway, a company with a 130-year history of transporting cargo and passengers at sea, has unveiled its first zero-emission cruise ship concept. Called "Sea Zero", the plans for the cruise ship were revealed in March last year, and now we have the first glimpse of what the company plans to build.

Maritime transport is one of the challenges that electrification is yet to solve. Battery-operated ships have limited ranges and carrying capacities and are not cut out for the long haul.

Cruise ships are a different beast, carrying many passengers and going over the top to cater to their comforts. So, a zero-emission cruise ship is a mighty challenge, and Hurtigruten (Norwegian for 'the Fast Route') is pushing the boundaries when it plans to build it before the end of the decade.

The Zero Emission Cruise Ship

To begin with, the shipbuilder will use multiple 60-megawatt batteries that will be charged at the port before it sets sail on its voyage. The cruise ship features three autonomous and retractable sail wing rigs to prevent the hassle of finding ports to charge them up again.

Each rig will reach a height of 164 feet (50 m) when fully extended and be used to cover 8,073 sq. ft (750 sq. m.) surface area to tap into wind energy. The rigs will also provide 16,146 sq. ft (1,500 sq .m.) of area for solar panels, which will be used to recharge the batteries while at sea.

The shipbuilder is also turning to artificial intelligence (AI) to increase the efficiency of maneuvering, a move that will see the size of the bridge reduced significantly in size and resemble the cockpit of the aircraft, the press release said.

Before implementing this technology, the company will use its vast operational scale, which sees its ships dock at 34 ports in Norway daily, to collect information about efficient docking and undocking methods at each port, even under challenging weather conditions.

This zero-emission cruise ship will be co-piloted by AI and powered by solar sails
The Sea Zero concept from Hurtigruten Norway

The streamlined shape of the ship will reduce air resistance, thereby decreasing energy demand. The enlarged surfaces will also provide unparallel views for the 500 passengers who will be accommodated in 270 cabins on the cruise.

Passengers, too, will be a part of the energy consumption minimization drive on this ship, which is enabled through a mobile app. The passengers can operate the cabin ventilation and monitor their water and energy consumption.

The cruise ship has entered the phase where proposed technologies will be tried, tested, and improved upon leading up to their incorporation into the shipbuilding, which is expected to be completed by 2030.

Making ships greener now

While the zero-emission ship is a future dream, Hurtigruten Norway is also working on reducing the emissions from its existing fleet of ships. Two of its seven ships have now been upgraded to be powered by a battery-hybrid power plant, with another set for an upgrade this year.