Norwegian export credit agency Eksfin (formerly Export Credit Norway and GIEK) has provided loan guarantees of nearly €1 bill for the construction of 35 eco-friendly vessels over the last four years.
This included PONANT’s ‘Le Commandant Charcot’, which was recently delivered by Norwegian shipbuilder VARD.
“Our job at Eksfin is to promote Norwegian exports globally and boost the financial capacity of Norwegian industry. In the shipping space we are helping shipowners, shipyards and equipment sub-suppliers to finance an increasing number of vessels featuring alternative fuels or new technologies that reduce harmful emissions. We are now close to the milestone figure of NOK10 bill and will continue to pursue projects with a strong environmental profile reflecting the industry trend towards more sustainable operations,” said Eksfin CEO, Tone Lunde Bakker.
The expedition cruise vessel’s delivery from VARD Søviknes serves to highlight Eksfin’s decisive role in financing such projects, the organisation claimed. VARD won the PONANT contract thanks in part to Eksfin’s state-backed loan and risk guarantees.
“I am very proud of Eksfin’s involvement in securing this project for one of Norway’s top maritime exporters. Our export financing package was important in influencing the shipowner’s choice amid fierce competition between shipbuilders in Finland, German and Norway,” Lunde Bakker added.
Marseille-based PONANT contributed a significant amount of the contract price from its own resources, with Eksfin providing the outstanding sum in co-operation with French banks. The Eksfin loan amounted to €162.4 mill, with risk guarantees totalling €182.7 mill.
“PONANT aims at proposing purposeful and sustainable luxury experience on board small ships. ‘Le Commandant Charcot’ is the latest and the most iconic member of our fleet with an ultra-luxurious vessel sailing in never-yet-cruised destinations with unique environmental features.
“Eksfin’s efficient assistance together with our lenders helped to make this extraordinary ship a reality,” said PONANT CFO, Alexis Blavette.
Eksfin had earlier contributed to the financing of six expedition cruise ships also built by VARD for PONANT, but this seventh ship is unique being the world’s first hybrid-electric, LNG-powered vessel with an icebreaking capability (see North Pole story).
“The delivery of ‘Le Commandant Charcot’ and its superior environmental credentials reinforces Norway’s position as a leading producer of high-value, high-end vessels and technology. It is a great example of how we can work together with exporters and financial institutions to facilitate winning bids,” said Lunde Bakker.
PONANT estimated that by using LNG, emissions of sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and carbon dioxide (CO2) will be reduced by 95%, 85% and 25%, respectively, compared to conventional cruise ships.
‘Le Commandant Charcot’ is also designed for optimal energy efficiency and minimal footprint using systems engineered by VARD’s specialist business units. For example, the ship’s comprehensive electrical solution features battery technology from Norway’s Corvus Energy.
PONANT will use the 245-pax ship on Polar cruises to the Arctic and Antarctic. Shipping activity in these highly remote areas is subject to strict regulations.
In line with PONANT’s strong emphasis on environmental considerations across its activities, ‘Le Commandant Charcot’ has been certified by French classification society Bureau Veritas (BV) not only with PC2 Polar Ice Class, but also with ‘Clean Ship’ and ‘Comfort Class’ status thanks to new technologies that reduce the environmental impact and also noise and vibration, while ensuring the highest level of safety.
The vessel is also equipped with research facilities that will enable the scientific community to study and analyse water, air, ice and biological diversity at the extreme Poles.
Other Norwegian companies to take advantage of Eksfin’s financing for green ship projects, included Hurtigruten for hybrid cruise ships; ferry operators Norled, Boreal and Fjord1 for diesel-electric, hydrogen-electric and fully electric ferries; Color Line for the world’s largest hybrid cruise ferry and other vessel owners.
“Our new Eksfin structure makes it much easier and simpler for shipping customers and exporters to access advisory services and state-backed financing for complex projects. As a trusted partner with a streamlined approach and minimal red tape, our triple-A rated financial instruments available at competitive rates are invaluable in securing contracts in a demanding market. We’re also proud to be working with forward-leaning stakeholders spearheading the move towards greener shipping of the future,” Lunde Bakker concluded.