AWARDS 2022 | Best Small Tourist Boat – Kvitbjørn – Marell Boats

AWARDS 2022 | Best Small Tourist Boat – Kvitbjørn – Marell Boats

Best Small Tourist Boat – Kvitbjørn (Photo: Hurtigruten Svalbard)

Best Small Tourist Boat – Kvitbjørn – Marell Boats

A very exciting-looking boat with an interesting and innovative propulsion system, the example set by Kvitbjørn will undoubtedly soon be followed by other designers and builders.

Built to the highest quality standards, this little tourist boat proves that even comparatively small vessels can be showcases of the shipbuilder’s craft.

“The silence of the Arctic inspired us to build a tour boat that would take visitors to Norway’s Svalbard archipelago and the walruses and polar bears living there without scaring them,” Marell told Baird Maritime. “It is our first hybrid boat that almost silently makes its way in the unique nature experience that Svalbard offers.

The boat is built on a 15-metre multi-purpose vessel platform, which Marell said has proven to be efficient for marine police and patrol boat missions in both open outboard versions and closed inboard versions. The same hull design was shown to perform well in a tourist boat application for 12 passengers and 2 crew. The passengers have full access to the large aft deck platform for an unobstructed view of the scenery of Svalbard in open air. On the other hand, when outside temperatures drop, the passengers can instead sit comfortably in an insulated and heated cabin

“In winter when the vessel is drydocked, the temperature on Svalbard can be down to minus 40 degrees Celsius,” Marell added. “And when operations start in May, there is still a lot of sea ice to look out for and occasionally snow blizzards can occur. These can sometimes can cover the boat with a lot of water that can soon end up becoming ice. Thus, all materials, connections, and exterior surfaces needed to be designed in such a way that water and ice will not get trapped and that the boat itself will be able to withstand the vast differences in temperature.”

The hull is therefore made from marine grade aluminium while the superstructure features a mix of aluminium and FRP sandwich panels, both for insulation and for absorbing the elongation of the aluminium when exposed to warm temperatures emanating from the engine room and the cabin. To handle the ice slurry, Marell designed a special keel cooling system for the battery cooling system, though the company later discovered a more novel way of drawing seawater in via the transom.

Kvitbjørn operates in a tough environment, which places high demands on performance and safety,” the company told Baird Maritime. “These are important characteristics for a boat operating in the Arctic climate that prevails in Svalbard. The vessel with its unique aluminium hull has been well-developed and tested from previous projects so that it can take visitors quickly to where they can go sightseeing and then sail in quiet mode at low speed on electric drive.”

Marell said it is also the first vessel in the world to accommodate Volvo Penta’s new electric hybrid drive for sterndrives. Engineers also found a viable means of handling the extra load from the batteries in a special compartment, making it possible to slide the batteries in position close to the vessel’s longitudinal centre of gravity. Through this approach, the vessel is able to maintain its balance and stability while having only a marginal acceleration hump.

When asked about current trends in naval architecture and shipbuilding, Marell replied IMO Tier III regulations have presented challenges for new small craft operating in the Baltic and North Seas.

“Fortunately, we have now found solutions for after-treatment that also can fit into the existing design comprising a compact engine room and an aft platform without reducing the space occupied by cargo and maintenance compartments. Also, it is necessary to explore alternative power solutions like full electric, though this also comes with challenges concerning battery size and charging times. For passenger ferries with fixed ports and timetables, the alternative electric power solutions are relatively easy to handle while for excursion boats and patrol boats, a hybrid solution is normally preferred.”

The company added that regardless of the propulsion systems used now and in the near-future, there will be a growing focus on reducing hull resistance and saving energy. The company offers a solution in the form of a hull with lifting strakes parallel to the keel line and with slanted sides aft. This design offers low resistance over a broad range of speed settings, which can be important when calculating life cycle, energy consumption, and cost.

The year 2022 saw Marell win a number of new orders, particularly for vessels of between nine and 17 metres in length. Multiple deliveries were completed including a new fireboat for Stockholm and three rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) for police operators in Norway. Under construction are commuter boats scheduled for delivery this year as well as multi-purpose vessels for hybrid electric operations.

“With our unique range of high performance vessels used for patrol, surveillance, tourism, and crew transfer as well as commuter boats and tenders for luxury yachts,” Marell told Baird Maritime, “we believe we are well set for the next few years. We have doubled our capacity through extensions incorporated in existing assembly halls, broadening our clusters of subcontractors, and with successful references in all our active segments. We therefore see an increase in our orderbook in 2023 compared with 2022.”

The builder said tourism is on the rise again ever since the Covid-19 pandemic was first felt. Hence, tourists are looking for comfort and excitement, which the company says fits well with its current strategy.

“Svalbard and other exotic places have seen a steadily increasing number of visitors, but they usually come in small groups as opposed to large groups, like those arriving by cruise ship. On the other hand, those huge ships will need reliable tenders for bringing guests to and from shore on secluded islands. We therefore expect the volume of small and efficient tour boats will increase in the coming years, and many of these vessels will also have environment-friendly technologies.”

Marell believes the most important trend influencing the Scandinavian workboat industry is the need to replace older vessels with more modern and more energy-efficient technologies while also developing the necessary infrastructure for charging of electricity and for refuelling with fossil fuel alternatives like HVO and hydrogen.

“As many industries in the Nordic area are looking for alternative ways of producing fossil fuel-free material, the price of electricity will go up, compelling Sweden, Norway, and Finland to opt for offshore wind energy parks in addition to nuclear power and hydro-electric power,” said Marell. “The combination of producing electricity and hydrogen at the same facilities is very attractive and gives an added dimension to offshore wind development, which we think would lead to growing demand for workboats in the region’s waters. With new technology, lightweight materials, and 3D printing, the Swedish workboat industry will join Sweden’s own marine engine manufacturing industry in leading the future development of energy-efficient hulls and propulsion systems.”

For a list of the 2022 “Best Of” award winners, please click here.

Baird Maritime

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