Could Your Next Cruise Be Fish-Powered?

A Norwegian cruise line is working on fitting its ships with special equipment that could turn waste fish from the fishing industry into fuel.

The company, Hurtigruten, has a fleet of 17 ships and is the largest expedition cruise line company. Booking to see the Northern lights or tour Norway’s fjords? You might just end up booking your next nature holiday with this or other cruise lines like it. To be sure, such trips can offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences that are just not possible when traveling over land alone.

There is, though, a drawback to any large ocean-faring vessel, not just cruise ships but transport ships and the like, and that is their fuel consumption. They use an exorbitant amount of diesel fuel, and that releases a lot of climate warming and polluting gasses.

To give an idea of the scale of the problem, the Guardian notes that the world’s largest cruise ship, The Royal Caribbean’s Harmony, ” has two four-storey high 16-cylinder Wärtsilä engines which would, at full power, each burn 1,377 US gallons of fuel an hour, or about 66,000 gallons a day of some of the most polluting diesel fuel in the world.”

Hurtigruten doesn’t have a ship the size of Harmony in its fleet, but it’s taken several steps in the past to try to cut the pollution problems its ships do have. For example, the company has invested in green technologies like battery power to take some of the weight of its fuel demands. Now it’s set its sights on something rather different: using waste organic matter from things like vegetation and fish industry waste to create biogas.

Renewable biogas, which is derived by breaking down organic matter, has earned a lot of interest from green energy groups. While it can’t be the one-size-fits-all solution for our energy needs, it does have targeted value, particularly where it can serve to close wasteful systems or plug other energy shortfalls. That means seeking green energy alternatives by taking waste from one industry, in this case the fishing industry’s waste fish matter and vegetation, and repurposing it for another use, in this case as a means of powering ships. This gives us something to do with the waste we are creating in one industry, rather than letting it rot in our oceans or having to incinerate it, and actually creates a more environmentally-friendly option than burning fossil fuels in another, further cutting the environmental cost.

Essentially, there’s a double benefit to this kind of system, and that’s exactly what Hurtigruten wants to harness.

To this end, by 2021 Hurtigruten is aiming to have fitted at least six of its vessels with biogas running off of fish and vegetation waste, liquified natural gas (which is still a fossil fuel but is much cleaner than diesel in most circumstances) and large batteries that can store that energy.

“What [others] see as a problem, we see as a resource and a solution,” Daniel Skjeldam, the chief executive of Hurtigruten, told Travel Agent Central. “By introducing biogas as fuel for cruise ships, Hurtigruten will be the first cruise company to power ships with fossil-free fuel. ”While competitors are running on cheap, polluting heavy fuel oil, our ships will literally be powered by nature. Biogas is the greenest fuel in shipping, and will be a huge advantage for the environment. We would love other cruise companies to follow.”

Hurtigruten is expected to invest around $850 million in making these and other green technology improvements. What is perhaps even more encouraging than move to biogas itself is that Hurtigruten has decided to shoulder the responsibility of being an industry leader in making its fleet more environmentally friendly. That’s the kind of leadership that counts, because it future-proofs the fleet at a time when the EU is looking at drastically reducing diesel and fossil fuel reliance in the next decade. It also sets a standard for other industry players to live up to or exceed.

All this could make for a less choppy journey toward our climate change reduction goals.

Photo credit: Getty Images.


Latoya B
Latoya Brookins2 months ago

I thought it was going to say killing fish. Fish poop is okay to use.

John W
John W2 months ago


Irene S
Irene S2 months ago

As far as I know, cruisers use crude oil, not diesel. Biogas plants could be a good thing if people would learn at least to use the ordinary human waste for it. Where I live, they grow corn especially for that.

Henry M
Henry M2 months ago

The cruise industry will have to do better than this if they want to be ecology sustainable--don't forget that they are responsible for a large percentage of the plastic waste in the world's oceans.

Celine Russo
Celine Russo2 months ago

There's only one problem I see... one would need a very big fishing industry for this to be effective but is that sustainable in today's circumstances?

David C
David C2 months ago


David C
David C2 months ago


Barbara S
Barbara S2 months ago

thanks for this

Debra G
Debra G2 months ago

This is a step in the right direction. Kudos to Hurtigruten for leading the clean up in the travel industry fuel requirements.

heather g
heather g2 months ago

My niece is presently on a Hurtigruten cruise and chose it for all the right reasons. Now if they were using their fish-farm stock, that would be even better....