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(CNN Spanish) -- Adventure cruise company Hurtigruten Norway has revealed its plans for a zero-emission electric cruise ship with retractable sails covered with solar panels, set sail in 2030.

The company currently has a fleet of eight ships, each accommodating 500 passengers, that travel the Norwegian coast, from Oslo to the Arctic Circle. Although it is a relatively small company, its CEO, Hedda Felin, hopes that this innovation "can inspire the entire maritime industry."

The project, dubbed "Sea Zero", was initially announced in March 2022 and since then, Hurtigruten Norway, together with 12 maritime partners and Norway-based research institute SINTEF, has been exploring technological solutions that could help achieve emission-free sea travel. .

Cruise company Hurtigruten Norway has unveiled a design for a zero-emission ship that relies on wind and solar power. The vessel, shown here in a rendering, will be electric and equipped with batteries that will be charged with renewable energy when in port. They will also be powered by retractable sails covered with solar panels. (VARD Design)

The resulting design will predominantly run on 60-megawatt batteries that can be charged at the port with clean energy, as renewables account for 98% of Norway's electricity system. Gerry Larsson-Fedde, senior vice president of Maritime Operations at Hurtigruten Norway, who came up with the idea for a zero-emission ship, estimates the batteries will have a range of 300 to 350 nautical miles (555 to 648 km), meaning that during an 11-day round trip, an ocean liner would have to charge about seven or eight times.

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To reduce dependence on the battery, when it's windy, three retractable sails, or wings, rise from the deck, reaching a maximum height of 50 meters. They can be adjusted independently, shrinking to go under bridges or changing their angle to catch the most wind, Larsson-Fedde explains. It adds that the sails will be covered with a total of 1,500 square meters of solar panels that will generate power to recharge the batteries while sailing, and battery levels will be displayed on the side of the ship.

"In Norway, although it can sometimes get dark in winter, we still have sunshine in the south. And we have sun 24 hours a day in summer. We will be superpowered by the midnight sun above everything else," he says.

The ship will be equipped with 270 cabins to accommodate 500 guests and 99 crew, and its aerodynamic shape will result in lower air resistance, which will help further reduce energy use. On board, passengers will be invited to minimize their own climate impact through an interactive mobile app that monitors their personal water and energy consumption.

The sails of the zero-emission ship will be retracted so that the ship can pass under the bridges, as shown here in a rendering. (VARD Design)

"We want them to be more aware of how much energy they use by spending 10 more minutes in the shower or having the air conditioning at maximum," says Larsson-Fedde.

Greener shipping

The shipping industry accounts for about 3% of global man-made greenhouse gas emissions, according to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the UN body that regulates global shipping. In 2018, the IMO introduced a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from industry by at least half by 2050.

This has given rise to a new wave of eco-friendly sailboat designs, from the transatlantic car carrier Oceanbird and several freighters with retractable sails, to Oceanco's superyacht Black Pearl and Atlanique's Chantiers cruise ship with solid folding sails. But most of these will also rely on engines that run on fossil fuels. Larsson-Fedde notes that while Hurtigruten Norway's design will have a backup engine for safety reasons, it will run on environmentally friendly fuels, such as ammonia, methanol or biofuel.

Hurtigruten Norway has long promoted sustainable shipping. In 2019, it launched the world's first battery-hybrid cruise ship and is currently in the process of converting the rest of its expedition fleet to hybrid battery power.

The ship will be 135 meters long and 270 cabins. The sails, when fully extended, will reach 50 meters in height. (VARD Design)

"We depend on the ocean and the environment. That's our product: clean oceans, clean ports, local suppliers," says Felin. "We want to drive and be the leader in sustainability, as we believe our industry is too slow and not ambitious enough."

Over the next two years, Hurtigruten Norway will test the proposed technologies before finalizing the design in 2026, and aims to start production in shipyards in 2027. The first vessel will enter Norwegian waters in 2030. After that, the company hopes to gradually transform its entire fleet to zero-emission vessels.