Bard – Brim Explorer’s newest hybrid catamaran for day tours and whale-watching
BardBrødrene Aa

VESSEL REVIEW | Bard – Brim Explorer’s newest hybrid catamaran for day tours and whale-watching

Norwegian boat builder Brødrene Aa recently delivered a new catamaran sightseeing vessel ordered by tour operator Brim Explorer. Named Bard, the DNV-classed, 26-metre (85-foot) vessel was designed jointly by Hareide Design Mill and Wave Propulsion to be capable of transporting 146 passengers.

Bard is the fourth vessel in our fleet of hybrid electric and electric ships,” Espen Larsen-Hakkebo, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Brim Explorer, told Baird Maritime. “The purpose of the design is to be an ideal platform for experiencing nature in the Arctic, with large panoramic windows and comfortable heated saloons for the passengers.”

Bard Brim Explorer Hareide Design Mill Wave Propulsion Brødrene Aa
Cabin interiorBrødrene Aa

Bard is also the first vessel in the owner’s fleet built with cabins and a rest area specifically for use by the crew. This will ensure crew comfort on long voyages between the Norwegian mainland and the Svalbard archipelago, in addition to serving as additional lodging during crew changes.

“The vessel will operate on sightseeing day tours of up to 100 nautical miles in Svalbard. During winter, it will be used for whale-watching trips and Northern Lights cruises out of Tromsø.”

Larsen-Hakkebo remarked that the seakeeping capabilities of the vessel were a key point in the design work, which entailed using an earlier Brim Explorer vessel used in the high Arctic as a basis. Changes were incorporated into the bow to handle waves better while the height of the wet deck was increased to prevent slamming. These then enhance comfort for both passengers and crew.

Ideal for operation in environmentally sensitive areas

The hybrid propulsion setup includes 450kW electric motors, fixed-pitch propellers, and an 800kWh lithium iron phosphate battery pack. Also supplying electrical power are a Volvo Penta D8 generator while two Sleipner bow thrusters will provide added lateral manoeuvrability. The propulsion will deliver a maximum speed of 20 knots and a cruising speed of 18 knots.

Bard Brim Explorer Hareide Design Mill Wave Propulsion Brødrene Aa
BardBrødrene Aa

“The vessel is a lightweight tour catamaran designed for operation in the high north,” said Larsen-Hakkebo. “The battery pack provides us with the ability to silently approach wildlife with as little disturbance as possible.”

With the change of the propulsion setup from a parallel hybrid on Brim Explorer’s previous vessel to a serial hybrid with a direct drive propulsion on Bard, the energy efficiency of the propulsion increased significantly, leading to a reduction in fuel consumption of as much as 30 per cent. When operating in hybrid mode, excess heat from the diesel engines is used to help make the saloons’ onboard environment.

Simplification of onboard systems for ease of use and maintenance

Construction was somewhat affected by supply chain-related delays due to the Covid pandemic and disruptions in world trade brought about by the situation in Ukraine and the Middle East. Nonetheless, work on the vessel continued, and Brim Explorer was even able to incorporate modifications to the propellers based on its experience in operating earlier vessels as well as make further improvements to both the hull design and the direct drive propulsion. The owner has also identified further areas for improvement in the vessel design with a long-term goal of introducing fully electric vessels with greater range in the future.

Bard Brim Explorer Hareide Design Mill Wave Propulsion Brødrene Aa
WheelhouseBrødrene Aa

“We have designed a direct drive solution for the vessel with the aim of increasing energy efficiency and reducing weight, and at the same time simplifying the systems on board, thus reducing noise, friction, vibration, and the need for maintenance,” said Larsen-Hakkebo. “We designed a system with as few moving and rotating parts as possible, in turn making necessary maintenance and inspections as easy as possible."

The use of direct drive permanent magnet motors was selected as a way of increasing energy efficiency and reducing operating costs. By dispensing with the additional gear unit, mechanical friction losses are minimised and overall energy efficiency is increased.

“In our effort to reduce weight on our previous builds, we focused on reducing the size and complexity of the electronic systems on board,” Larsen-Hakkebo told Baird Maritime. “Compared to standard installations in many similar vessels, we have drastically reduced the overall weight of our electronic systems by applying technology from the automotive industry and designing the technical arrangement with shorter cabling in mind.”

Bard also boasts an electronics suite that includes a Furuno radar. Should evacuation of the vessel become necessary, liferafts from Survitec are also available on board.

Bard Brim Explorer Hareide Design Mill Wave Propulsion Brødrene Aa
BardBrødrene Aa

Note: Baird Maritime had earlier published a review of a Brim Explorer sightseeing boat also named Bard. The owner explained that the first Bard has been renamed Berg, and that the newer boat will now bear the old name. Click here to read our 2020 vessel review of the earlier Bard.

Baird Maritime / Work Boat World