Mark Walter, head of sales (UK trade) at Hurtigruten, discusses environmentally-friendly ships, sustainability activities for guests and the Hurtigruten Foundation
What onshore sustainable activities do you offer guests?
Beach cleans are popular – to get o the ship and spend an afternoon cleaning is very rewarding for guests. We also offer a citizen science scheme, which sees guests collect ice and oil spill samples that are sent away for research. On South Georgia, crew and guests helped fix a corroding jetty. These experiences are all about rolling your sleeves up and getting your hands dirty.
What makes your ships environmentally friendly?
A lot of cruise ships use heavy fuel oil (HFO), which is cheap but causes high levels of pollution. Our ships have never used it and never will. In 2016 we announced our hybrid vessels, Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen, which will use two large battery packs that will run alongside the normal engines. We hope they’ll help reduce pollution by 3,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. The new hull design increases the ships’ performance and takes the stress out of the engines too, meaning less fuel consumption.
By 2021 six of our coastal ships in Norway will be converted to run on liquefied natural gas (LNG), which uses dead marine waste to power engines. We are also installing electric charging points along the Norwegian coast that utilise solar and hydroelectric power, which will be used for onboard operations. Last July we went plastic-free; the next phase is convincing our suppliers to do the same. Furthermore, 40% of our crew’s uniforms are made from recycled ocean plastic.
What is the ethos of the Hurtigruten Foundation?
The Hurtigruten Foundation was established in 2015 to ensure our guests of tomorrow will enjoy the same experiences as we offer today. The foundation operates under three pillars: polar bear conservation; fighting against marine and plastic pollution; and working with local groups and organisations that promote sustainability in the destinations we visit.
How is it funded?
We hold onboard auctions where guests bid for signed maps or flags, with all proceeds going to the Hurtigruten Foundation. We also offer a Green Stay programme, which gives guests the chance to opt out of having their cabin cleaned. This helps reduce the use of electricity, cleaning products and water.
What projects is the foundation sponsoring?
One that stands out is Polar Permaculture, which was set up by Ohio chef Benjamin Vidmar to help the community of Longyearbyen in Norway’s northern Svalbard to grow their own vegetables. It’s important for the area to be self-sufficient, as at the moment they depend on imports. Another is Hearts in the Ice, whose founders, Hilde Falun Strom and Sunniva Sorby, aim to be the first women in the world to overwinter in Svalbard without men – spending nine months in a trapper’s hut to collect data on climate change and monitor wildlife in the region.
How does Hurtigruten choose who it supports?
Applicants must fill in a form that will be considered by the board of directors during twice-yearly meetings. We tend to send funds to areas we visit, but have started working with Eco Panto – an organisation seeking to end the plastic problem in the Philippines.
How can agents support Hurtigruten’s eco efforts?
The four UK-wide beach clean-ups we hosted with nature conservation charity RSPB were very interesting. It brought the sustainability message home to the agents who took part. We want to repeat them next year.
At the end of September, we are also launching an OTT module dedicated to sustainability, with information on our new ships, LNG and projects we are supporting.
What’s your message to agents looking to sell Hurtigruten?
Our vision is to be the world leaders in exploration travel providing safe, unique, active and sustainable travel experiences that create lifelong memories. We operate under the “Four We’s” policy: we inspire, we empower, we care and we explore.