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First LNG-Fueled Exploration Cruise Ship with Battery System Delivered

LNG fueled battery system polar cruise ship
The strcuture of the Commandant Charcot arriving in Norway in April 2021 for outfitting (Ponant)

Published Aug 2, 2021 5:18 PM by The Maritime Executive

French cruise line Ponant and Norwegian shipbuilder VARD confirmed the completion and delivery of the first hybrid exploration cruise ship. The luxury vessel, which was handed over on July 29, is the first exploration cruise ship capable of operating on liquified natural gas.

According to VARD, the 30,000 gross ton Le Commandant Charcot, is the first hybrid-powered polar exploration vessel propelled with LNG and one of the small but growing group of passenger ships using LNG as their fuel. Developed by Ponant, Stirling Design International, Aker Arctic, and VARD, the vessel is an electric hybrid cruise vessel with ice-breaking technology and dual fuel propulsion, featuring high-capacity batteries and LNG storage onboard. 

Ponant noted that the delivery culminates six years of work to bring about the unique design. The vessel is classified as Polar Class 2, designed to sail in some of the most demand areas of the globe, including the geographic North Pole (90 degrees North Latitude), the Weddell Sea, the Ross Sea, Northeast Greenland National Park, a circumnavigation of the Svalbard archipelago, the Bellingshausen Sea, and the Larsen Ice Shelf. Because of the environmentally sensitive nature of its destinations, the vessel also is equipped to handle all waste onboard.

“Delivery of Le Commandant Charcot is both a culmination and the beginning of a new kind of odyssey for the company,” said Chief executive of Ponant Hervé Gastinel. “The construction of this prototype ship demanded extremely high standards in terms of quality. I am proud of the work that our teams have accomplished.”

The construction of the hull and superstructure of the vessel was done in Romania and then in the spring of 2021, with the steelwork completed, the hull was towed to VARD’s yard in Norway for technical work and outfitting. Le Commandant Charcot is due to enter service at the end of October, sailing from Puerto Mott, Chile to Antarctica.  

The vessel measures 492 feet in length and can accommodate 245 passengers along with a crew of 235. Outfitted as an exploration cruise ship, the company promotes her as “a platform for observation, research, and analysis to study water, air, ice and biodiversity in extreme polar regions.” Passengers will have the opportunity to participate in scientific programs and lectures, while activities will include kayaking, hovercraft rides, hiking, and ice fishing.

The 13th ship in Ponant’s fleet, she also offers luxury accommodations for the passengers. In addition to the 135 staterooms, passenger facilities include an indoor swimming pool, conservatory, panoramic restaurant, outdoor restaurant, main lounge, and an observation lounge.