Piloting the world’s first hybrid cruise ship into Portsmouth

Ben McInnes, Harbourmaster and Pilot at the UK’s Portsmouth International Port shares his experience of the recent port call of expedition cruise vessel ‘MV Fridtjof Nansen’ with Maritime Journal.

This morning I welcomed the brand new expedition vessel Fridtjof Nanseninto Portsmouth. The ship is part of the Hurtigruten fleet, specialising in expeditionary voyages to far flung and less-reached parts of the earth such as Antarctica and Greenland, as well as expeditionary itineraries in Norway, Alaska and British Colombia. A wet and blustery morning welcomed her to the waters of the Solent, and I was the pilot for her inaugural arrival.

With Corona virus fever sweeping the world, I was greeted with the news that “handshakes were not permitted Mr Pilot”, so I greeted the captain with a bow, Japanese style, which broke the ice nicely! The bridge was a dream, with the latest technology ergonomically presented to the Captain and bridge team. With full chart size planning displays of the electronic chart system, and central controls for the captain, this was certainly one of the most advanced and well thought out bridge designs I have seen.

The ship is powered by an intelligent power management system that combines diesel generators with electric motors, and a battery bank. The captain informed me that savings of around 20% can be achieved by using the battery reserve “when I would usually need three generators, the power management system uses two, but adds additional power into the system from the battery bank”. Manoeuvring is achieved by the ship’s two azimuth propellers, and two bow tunnel thrusters, which are also of a revolutionary design. The propulsion can all be linked together by the ship’s Dynamic Positioning system, that can hold the ship in a precise position and heading, or carry out computer controlled manoeuvres.

A short tour of the ship on the way down to the gangway, and it really is something special, the interior of the ship is ultra-luxury, with well thought out spaces, and large monitor screens around the ship showing 360 degree views from the mast top.

An elbow bash, chef style with the captain rounded off my morning’s work as we exchanged plaques, and had a chuckle at the lack of handshakes that usually accompany such occasions. The ship was a joy to manoeuvre, and a great bridge team, and I would love one day, to explore the Antarctic as a passenger on-board.