It’s Electric! Norway Sets Zero-Emission Standards to Protect Its Fjords

If boats wish to navigate Norway’s pristine heritage fjords, they’ll soon have to be fitted with zero or low-emission technologies.

Norway’s fjords are renowned for their beauty and are popular tourist destinations, so this decision is one that could have international repercussions. The new rules are meant to be enforced as soon as technologically possible but no later than 2026. This isn’t a long-term aspiration, but something that Norway is working towards in the relatively near future.

The resolution will require vessels wishing to operate in Norway’s World Heritage-designated fjords to have zero or close to zero carbon emissions. The resolution is likely the first of its kind in the world, and it essentially means that boats will need to be electric powered.

“For the first time in the world there is a requirement for emission-free sailing in the fjords and the ports,” Marius Holm of the environmental group ZERO is quoted  as saying. “Norway has long been a world leader of emission-free ferries, driven by good political decisions on zero-emission requirements. Now we take a new step within the maritime green shift that has global reverberations.”

Holm hopes that the resolution will drive development of zero-emission tourist boats and cut back on greenhouse gases and air pollution in the area.

It’s worth noting that because this will be limited to World Heritage sites (at least at first), the overall area it will cover is relatively small. However, when put alongside Norway’s other steps toward managing its waters, this is yet another move toward keeping Norway’s waters clear and reducing overall carbon emissions.

In 2015 Norway passed a similar but more encompassing resolution saying that all new contracts for sailing its fjords had, essentially, to provide vessels that were electric rather than fossil fuel powered. This has led to the development of over 60 electric vessels which will take to the seas in the next few years.

Recent reports on existing electric vessels in Norway show they outperform their fossil fuel counterparts significantly, with over a 90 percent reduction in emissions and a reduction in costs of over 80 percent.

One thing that has majorly helped in this fight toward zero-carbon emissions is how Norway’s ferry industry has embraced the changes. While in places like the US and many areas of Europe there can be strong resistance from big businesses when it comes to new environmental regulations, many major ferry companies in Norway were quick to act to comply with this drive.

Per Sævik, CEO of route operator Havila Holdings AS told Inverse that he “welcomes this decision,” and the company expects to set sail with emissions-free cruise ships as soon as 2021. Hege Økland, CEO of NCE Maritime CleanTech, said the decision “can ensure our industry’s position in this area, so that Norwegian business is strengthened, jobs are created and that we can contribute to good solutions globally.”

This push toward electric ships has also been important for international partners. For example, German manufacturers have invested heavily in developing batteries that could power Norway’s low-to-zero emissions vessels, something that ultimately could translate to innovations in the rest of Europe, where river cruises are a popular tourist activity.

Norway’s decision to embrace electric ferries is important for another reason, too. There are currently about 185 battery-powered electric vessels  of this type in the world, and the vast majority of them are operated within Norway or France. As a result, Norway is a perfect testing ground for how this roll-out of electric river vessels can work.

If these plans succeed as they should, the Norway model could provide other nations with an ideal starting point to adapt their own ferries.

It also speaks to Norway’s broader commitment to divest form fossil fuels throughout its industries. It also demonstrates how nations can incorporate electrification into its tourism sector, ensuring that the costs from moving away from fossil fuels can be recovered in the long term.

There will, of course, be logistical hurdles to this plan. Ports will have to be fitted with equipment to power their electric ships, and there will need to be money spent on retrofitting older vessels. However, this seems a small price to pay for ensuring that the beauty and vitality of Norway’s fjords remains intact for many more years to come.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

41 comments

Clare O'Beara
Clare O3 days ago

quieter

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O3 days ago

th

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Winn A
Winn A3 days ago

Thanks

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Winn A
Winn A3 days ago

Good for them.

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Angela AWAY K
Angela AWAY K3 days ago

Thank you for sharing

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Caitlin L
Caitlin L3 days ago

thanks

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Erasmo J
Erasmo J3 days ago

And yet they are still killing whales just for fun...I can´t understand how these Norwegian people can be so progressive in some aspects and yet so backward in others.....sad..

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Bob Rich
Bob Rich4 days ago

That's wonderful -- for Norway in Norway. However, you mightn't know, the Norwegian state-owned company Statoil is determined to drill for oil in one of the planet's environmental wonders, the place where many species of whales breed: the Great Australian Bight. Climate change knows no borders.

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Melania P
Melania P4 days ago

Alea C, agree with you: "Meanwhile, back in the dark ages, read US, our top morons are trying to bring back coal"

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Lesa D
Lesa D4 days ago

Norway is FJORD~GING ahead!!!

thank you Steve...

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