Ulstein has launched a vessel concept claimed to be capable of making the vision of zero emission cruise operations a reality.
Named ‘Ulstein Thor’, the 149 m 3R (replenishment, research and rescue) design will feature a thorium molten salt reactor (MSR) to generate large amounts of clean, safe electricity.
This will enable the vessel to operate as a mobile power/charging station for a new breed of battery driven cruise ships, Ulsein explained.
To demonstrate its feasibility, Ulstein has also developed the ‘Ulstein Sif’ concept, a 100 m long, 160 pax capacity, zero emission expedition cruise ship. This Ice Class 1C vessel will operate on next generation batteries, using ‘Thor’ to recharge while at sea.
“We have the goals, ambition and environmental imperative to switch to zero-emission operations, but, until now, we haven’t had the solution,” explained Ulstein CEO, Cathrine Kristiseter Marti. “We believe ‘Thor’ might be the answer we’ve been looking for. ‘Thor’ is essentially a floating, multi-purpose ‘power station’ that will enable a new battery revolution.”
“Expedition cruise ships operate in increasingly remote, and environmentally fragile, areas. At the same time the industry faces growing pressure from diverse stakeholders to preserve nature as it is and ban the environmental impact of cruising. ‘Thor’ enables replenishment of energy and supplies on site, while also boasting the technology to facilitate rescue operations, as well as conducting research tasks. It is, in effect, a crucial piece of infrastructure to support sustainable and safer operations. ‘Thor’ literally has the power to change our entire industry,.” she said.
Thorium was identified as having huge potential for a maritime industry searching for clean alternative fuels.
MSRs are safe, efficient and operationally proven solutions that work by dissolving Thorium – an abundant, naturally occurring metal with low radioactivity – in liquid salt. The resulting chain reaction heats the salt, producing steam to drive a turbine and create electricity.
Although developments on land are well documented, its potential for delivering clean maritime power has yet to be incorporated into a vessel design. Ulstein, said that it saw an opportunity to change that, potentially heralding a new dawn of clean power for cruise and maritime operations.
‘Thor’s’ charging capacity has been scaled to satisfy the power needs of four expedition cruise ships, simultaneously. The ‘mother’ ship would not need refueling. As such, ‘Thor’ is intended to provide a blueprint for entirely self-sufficient vessels of the future.
Speaking about the suitability of Thorium MSRs as an energy source for maritime applications, Jan Emblemsvåg, Professor at Norwegian University of Science and Technology, an expert in the field of Thorium and nuclear power generation, said: “MSRs have enormous potential for enabling clean shipping. There is so much uncertainty over future fuels, but here we have an abundant energy source that, with the right approach, can be safe, much more efficient, cheaper, with a smaller environmental footprint than any existing alternative.”
“From my perspective I see this as the most viable, and potentially the only credible, solution for a zero emission fleet that can operate under commercial terms and cost levels. The ‘Thor’ concept is exactly the kind of innovation we need for sustainable success at sea,” he said.
Both ‘Thor’ and ‘Sif’ feature Ulstein’s patented X-BOW design, designed for greater operability, comfort, operational functionality and fuel efficiency.
‘Thor’ will feature helipads, firefighting equipment, rescue booms, workboats, autonomous surface vehicles and airborne drones, cranes, laboratories, and a lecture lounge.
The expedition cruise vessel ‘Sif’ can accommodate up to 80 pax and 80 crew, offering silent, zero emission expedition cruises to remote areas, including Arctic and Antarctic waters.
“Here we have two concepts in one to showcase a cleaner, safer and more sustainable way ahead for cruise shipowners and operators, not to mention maritime in general,” said Øyvind Kamsvåg, Ulstein’s Chief Designer. “‘Thor’ and ‘Sif’ demonstrate what is possible when we approach challenges from a new direction.”
“We have huge confidence in this solution and want to engage further in conversations about how we can enable the necessary changes the world demands,” added Lars Ståle Skoge, Commercial Director at Ulstein Design & Solutions. “I’m excited to see where ‘Thor’ and ‘Sif’ can take us as we look to a zero emissions horizon.”