VESSEL REVIEW | Kvitbjørn – Fast hybrid boat for Norwegian Arctic tour operator

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

Marell Boats of Sweden has delivered a new high-speed day tour boat to Norway-based Arctic tour company Hurtigruten Svalbard.

Kvitbjørn (“Polar Bear”) is the result of a collaboration between Hurtigruten Svalbard, Marell, and engine manufacturer Volvo Penta as part of a pilot project to test new electromobility technology in an area known for having some of the most extreme maritime environments.

The new tour boat measures 14.9 metres long and has capacity for 12 people. A spacious aft deck allows for comfortable scouting for wildlife. During transport, passengers sit safely and comfortably in double seats with seat belts.

The boat utilises an existing Marell design that was originally developed as an interceptor craft for maritime security missions, hence the inclusion of strong webs and longitudinal framing that allow for high-speed sailing even in heavy seas. The 21-degree deadrise at stern, a well-shaped and fine-tuned fore body, and longitudinal strakes ensure that sailing in high waves is made comfortable and high-speed turns are executed safely. Also, the craft runs dry at all times, with all sea spray directed to the side of the boat, keeping the windscreen and deck clean from water.

The boat has four watertight compartments to meet the safety requirement of single compartment flooding. All decks are self-bailing and equipped with anti-skid surfaces. The boat also comes with a complete set of mooring lines, an anchor, and fenders.

Photo: Hurtigruten Svalbard

Like other Marell boats, Kvitbjørn comes with a centre steering position, inherited from racing and pilot operations. The coxswain’s central position gives full and optimal control during boarding and advanced manoeuvres. The navigator sits next to the coxswain in an ergonomically designed cockpit layout required for high-speed transits in any type of weather, day or night.

Power is provided by a Volvo Penta twin D4-320 DPI hybrid solution that delivers a top speed of 32 knots and a cruising speed of 25 knots. This will enable the vessel to run even in sub-zero temperatures with an extensive range of 500 nautical miles.

The propulsion provides added manoeuvrability ideal for slow cruising when wildlife watching. Volvo Penta said that the hybrid propulsion will also help ensure near-silent operation, thus creating a more enjoyable experience for tourists and wildlife alike. The propulsion system also enables the operator to seamlessly shift between driving modes, enhancing efficiency and comfort on board.

As the vessel will be working in extreme temperatures, the onboard batteries are fitted with an integrated heating and cooling system that keeps battery temperatures at a steady 15 degrees Celsius. The system can achieve this without having to circulate seawater, thus preventing icing.

The boat’s electronics suite also includes a Garmin radar.

Kvitbjørn arrived in Svalbard in April 2022 and has since embarked on its maiden commercial voyage from Longyearbyen. All operational trips will be three to four hours in duration.

The new boat will run for more than 1,000 hours during the tourist season from May 1 to October 31.

Photo: Volvo Penta

Click here to read other news stories, features, opinion articles, and vessel reviews as part of this month’s Passenger Vessel Week.

Type of vessel:Tour boat
Owner:Hurtigruten Svalbard, Norway
Builder:Marell Boats, Sweden
Length overall:14.9 metres
Main engines:2 x Volvo Penta D4-320
Maximum speed:32 knots
Cruising speed:25 knots
Range:500 nautical miles
Operational area:Svalbard, Norway

Baird Maritime

The best maritime site on the web. The sea's our scene!