Recently established Norwegian cruise venture and Portuguese shipbuilder West Sea today signed a Letter of Intent (LoI) for the construction of the company’s maiden vessel, with expected delivery at the start of the 2025/2026 cruise season.
“This is a new milestone on our journey towards emission-free cruising. Having approached yards worldwide for tenders, we’re delighted to be embarking on this exciting project with West Sea. They are a modern, professional yard with a good track record. It’s great to be here at SMM for the signing alongside our technology partner, ABB, whose expertise has been key to developing the concept of this pioneering vessel,” said Northern Xplorer (NX) founder and CEO Rolf André Sandvik.
Blazing new trail
“As a shipbuilder focused on advanced vessels and high quality, we very much look forward to working together with Northern Xplorer. We’re proud to be taking a lead in building such an innovative and technology advanced vessel of a high standard that will have minimal impact on the environment,” said West Sea manager Vitor Figueiredo.
West Sea intends to build the 250-passenger vessel at its facility in Viana do Costello north of Porto. Its cruise newbuilding portfolio to date includes the 200-passenger World Navigator (built 2021), World Voyager (built 2020) and World Explorer (built 2019), the first three in a series of seven high-end polar expedition vessels for a renowned luxury cruise operator.
The vessel’s design features ABB’s fully electric propulsion system, including the battery and hydrogen fuel cell technology that will enable to it to sail emissions-free in the Norwegian fjords and further afield as the green shift takes root.
“We are very happy on behalf of Northern Xplorer, and it has been an honour to contribute with our expertise to this pioneering project aiming to prove the viability of eco-friendly cruise operations using zero-carbon fuel,” said Jorulf Nergard, Vice President Business Development, ABB Marine & Ports.
NX and ABB are currently in dialogue with multiple sub-suppliers for vessel systems. “We haven’t made any final decisions yet because we want to go with the newest technology as it becomes available. Where possible we also aim to select the most sustainable materials available in the market,” said Sandvik.
Solid support along the way
NX has worked closely with Oslo-based Affinity Offshore AS, who “have done a tremendous job in sourcing the right shipyard for such an innovative project”, Sandvik said. “Our financial partner Clarksons Securities AS will assist us as lead manager on the project, while I’d also like to thank our fantastic ship designer, Multi Maritime AS in Førde, who have worked persistently for three years with a design that is truly eye-catching. It is a vision for the future and will be a jewel to travel in.”
Oslo-based business law firm Grønvigh, Tjersland & Indrevær DA (www.gtilaw) were central to creating the LoI’s legal framework. “As part of our mission to create optimal value for our clients, we are very pleased to be helping Northern Xplorer on their journey to developing the cruise industry of the future,” said partner Jonas Tjersland.
Market eager for sustainable cruising solutions
The LOI is an important step towards creating a new paradigm in the cruise industry and to meet Norway’s brave decision to ban fossil fuel-powered ships from its world-heritage fjords from 2026. “Discerning travellers want to cruise with a clean conscience, and with this ground-breaking green ship we aim to cater to that strong demand,” Sandvik said.
Sandvik previously commissioned the hybrid-electric sightseeing vessels Vision of the Fjords (built 2016) and Future of the Fjords (built 2018) in his former role as founder and CEO of tourism company The Fjords. Constructed by specialist Norwegian shipbuilder Brødrene Aa, both vessels won the ‘Ship of the Year’ award during maritime trade fair SMM in Hamburg in their respective delivery years. “That was an exciting project in its time and a world-first enabling pollution-free journeys in Norway’s UNESCO-listed Nærøyfjord. With NX we’re taking take things to the next level,” he said.