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The world’s first hybrid ship, MS Roald Amundsen, which is partially powered by batteries, will be the first cruise liner to call at Fort William since the coronavirus pandemic began when it drops anchor in Loch Linnhe in September.
It is part of the fleet operated by the Norwegian expedition cruise line, Hurtigruten, which has announced it is launching a series of sailings from UK ports this September.
The vessel uses battery packs to support her low-emission engines, which the cruise line says reduces CO2 emissions by 20 per cent compared to other cruise ships of the same size.
Passenger numbers will be limited to no more 350 for each cruise to allow for social distancing measures.
The four sailings will all be short break expedition cruises around the British Isles.
When it weights anchor at Dover in September, MS Roald Amundsen will be the first expedition cruise ship to depart from a UK port since the country went into lockdown in March.
The four sailings will depart from Portsmouth (September 2), Liverpool (September 7 and 17 ) and Glasgow (September 12).
The expeditions will last six days each and, as well as Fort William, the Roald Amundsen will also call at Loch Sunart, Oban, Stornoway, St Kilda and Portree on Skye.
Fort William had been due to welcome 14 cruise liners this season before the coronavirus pandemic forced their cancellation earlier this year.
On the ship will be a dedicated expedition team, including ornithologists, leading excursions such as beach clean ups.
As befits the world’s first hybrid ship, single-use plastics are banned on board the MS Roald Amundsen.
It was only last year that the vessel was added to the Hurtigruten fleet. She boasts the latest environmentally sustainable hybrid technology to reduce fuel consumption and demonstrate that hybrid propulsion on large ships is possible.
With a gross tonnage of 20,890, MS Roald Amundsen and her sister ship MS Fridtjof Nansen are the first of two hybrid ships Hurtigruten will add to its fleet over the next few years.
Built by Kleven Yards of Norway, MS Roald Amundsen began her maiden voyage in July last year, sailing from the Norwegian port Tromsø to Hamburg.
Named after the famous Norwegian explorer who was the first man to reach the South Pole, the company says MS Roald Amundsen, which has an ice-strengthened hull for sailing in polar seas, leads the way towards an even more sustainable way of travelling.
The ship is specially constructed for voyages in polar waters and serves as a comfortable base camp at sea – bringing adventurers from all over the world to the most spectacular destinations in a more sustainable way.
Experts onboard deliver in-depth lectures on a variety of topics, while the ship also boasts a science centre which has an extensive library, biological and geological microscopes.
There is a Citizen Science programme which allows guests to assist with live scientific research, and the ship’s professional photographer gives top tips and tricks for the best landscape and wildlife photographs.
Councillor Ben Thompson (Caol and Mallaig), who has called for an electric option when it comes to choosing the replacement vessel for the Corran Ferry service, said Norway was ahead of Scotland when it comes to dealing with particle pollution from dirty engines.
‘I first became aware of the electrification going on in Norway when they banned cruise liners burning dirty fuel and introduced a date for the fjords becoming zero emission,’ Councillor Thomspon told the Lochaber Times.
‘Their government has been taking these steps to protect people because of the significant pollution Norwegian fjord towns were suffering. Cruise ships are responsible for a large amount of that pollution as many still burn very dirty fuel. New hybrid vessels like the Roald Amundsen are going to be needed for cruise ships to visit the Norwegian fjords in future.
‘There has been a lot of media coverage in the UK of the new medical understanding of the severe health impact of particle pollution from dirty engines.
‘Children are especially impacted and no doubt that has influenced the steps they are taking in Norway. In the Highlands we have not yet dealt with particle pollution in our towns as they have in Norway.
‘Because of campaigns such as Clean Air Day, I think the message is slowly getting out there. We pride ourselves on our pristine, healthy Highland environment – we need to make sure we’re taking the steps to keep it that way.’