If everything goes according to plan, Viking Cruises may in the future launch a full-scale cruise ship powered by liquid hydrogen. The announcement came from Serge Fossati, project manager at the shipping company, during the Safety at Sea Conference in Haugesund. The ship will be around 230 metres long, and will accommodate more than 900 passengers and a crew of 500.

“This is a world sensation. Very exciting. If they pull this off, a distribution network may be established, which will enable others as well to use hydrogen as fuel, and could contribute to a zero-emission shipping industry,” says Director General of Shipping and Navigation, Olav Akselsen.

Viking Cruises, who has registered several new cruise ships in the Norwegian International Ship Register over the last few years, envisions constructing a ship based on the same design as their seagoing cruise ships, such as the Viking Sun. The shipping company makes it clear that they also want to register the hydrogen ship in the NIS if it is realised, and is already in dialogue with the Norwegian Maritime Authority.

“At Viking, we have always endeavoured to look forward and to be at the forefront with regard to green shipping. As a Norwegian and with Norwegian ships, we want to lead the way to zero-emission ships through fuel cell technology. The road to that point is still long, but here at Viking we want to be ahead of the game,” says Chairman of Viking Cruises, Torstein Hagen.

Equal safety as in conventional vessels

So far, liquid hydrogen has not been used as marine fuel. One of the technical challenges is to maintain the fuel at minus 253 degrees to keep it from evaporating. A fuel cell will convert the hydrogen to electricity for propulsion and electric power on board. Hydrogen is also a very explosive gas, and protection against gas leaks is an important part of the safety requirements for the fuel.

“The ship will fly the Norwegian flag, which means that we have to vouch for the safety being just as good as on conventional ships. We believe that it is possible to solve those issues. We probably have a way to go before all the technical solutions are in place, but this is a very concrete project which has a high priority at Viking Cruises,” says Akselsen.

At present, liquid hydrogen is not produced on a large scale in Europe, but Fossati explained that Viking Cruises is in dialogue with Statoil in order to find a solution based on a Norwegian refinery. It also emerged that the shipping company wants to use Norwegian suppliers for the project, as far as possible. Several tender ships to carry the fuel to the cruise ship are also part of the project.

Serge Fossati, Viking CruisesSerge Fossati, project manager at Viking Cruises, unveiled the company's hydrogen plans in Haugesund today.