More cruise companies are taking passengers to the Arctic, but ships need to be rugged enough to withstand the tough conditions. Jukka Salminen, sales manager at Aker Arctic, talks about how his company works to make vessels comfortable, reliable and safe on the high seas.
What are the important things to consider before designing Arctic cruise vessels?
Jukka Salminen: Vessels need to be designed to cope with a number of factors, including the expected ice conditions, temperatures, sea currents and other environmental issues. Based on this, the ice class, icebreaking capability, operation principles and other major technical solutions are selected. Aker Arctic has participated in more than 180 ice expeditions and full-scale ice trials throughout its history, and holds an extensive database of various sea areas around the Arctic and Antarctic.
Quality designs ensure safe and optimised vessel operation. Icebreaking vessels need to compromise between open-water and icebreaking requirements, which influences the hull form. The hull also greatly influences passenger comfort. With our latest cruise design project, the PONANT Icebreaker, we have focused on passenger comfort and have incorporated design solutions that increase the comfort on board compared with conventional icebreakers.
How do the company's designs ensure safety in Arctic areas?
Aker Arctic has designed more than 60% of the world's icebreaking vessels. Using our measurements, we can work out the vessel's structure based on real-ice conditions. We use robust design principles; for example, using a double-hull design to ensure that ice damage will not cause flooding in a compartment. Intelligent-heating systems from our subsidiary Starkice enable us to save energy and maintain a safe working environment in varying climate conditions. This is achieved by using sensor controls that adjust the heating power accordingly to ensure optimal performance.
For ships operating in ice-covered waters, we can provide an intelligent-ice-load monitoring system that provides operators with a tool to handle their ships in safe but efficient ways. This system monitors the hull loads with sensors that are installed on the steel structures of the vessel. With the information received from the sensors, combined with the ship's structural capability, the system is able to show operators the loading and risk level imposed by ice impacts. The system can also predict expected loads and can, therefore, provide vessel operators with a substantially improved tool to operate their ships safely and efficiently.
Can you tell us how Aker Arctic ensures that its vessels keep the local environment clean?
Protecting fragile polar areas is important. Aker Arctic has already designed two icebreaking vessels with dual-fuel systems that use LNG and marine gas oil. Fuel consumption is optimised by fixing the hull for icebreaking and the open water. Polaris, which was delivered in 2016 and designed by Aker Arctic, has shown that LNG is a feasible solution for icebreaking vessels.
Why has the company decided to develop winterisation systems?
We consider winterisation to be a complete solution that ensures safe and continuous operation of the ship systems in harsh conditions. This means so much more than just applying heated decks: the various methods have been developed and used successfully over decades of designing icebreakers and ice-going ships. It is always important to have knowledge of the expected environmental conditions, so that winterisation systems are properly deployed.
How does Aker Arctic ensure that vessel crews are trained to work safely in polar waters?
Aker Arctic and its partners have developed an ice-navigation simulator; we believe that safe and cost-effective training is only possible with one of these. The vessel model will be built using actual physics principals, so the crew understands the vessel's capabilities and how it can be safely operated in polar waters. The simulator model for the vessel can even be developed before the vessel is delivered. This gives the operator the possibility to train the crew for new vessels as soon as they arrive.
We also develop polar water operational manuals with operators that are required for operating in polar waters. This manual outlines how ship crews can operate the vessel safely and cleanly.
Given that Ponant has entered the Arctic cruise market, are you confident that other cruise operators will follow suit?
There have been cruises in the Arctic before, but with a quite different concept, where some older icebreakers have been used to transport a small number of tourists into ice regions. Ponant will take these cruises to a new level and offer unique experiences. Generally, we believe that Arctic cruises will become more popular; after all, it is a unique and beautiful place, but so far, few people have experienced it.
Aker Arctic is a private company that specialises in development, design, engineering, consulting and testing services for ice-going vessels, icebreakers, offshore marine structures, marine transport solutions and ports. Our experienced, highly qualified and innovative personnel are able to provide our customers with specialised arctic know-how, as well as innovative, cost-effective and reliable designs for the projects in Arctic and other challenging conditions. The company operates a special test facility in Helsinki. This combined with our extensive experience and the world's largest reference for icebreakers means we are uniquely placed to bring the benefits of our solutions to our customers. We are always actively seeking new technologies and working with our partners to turn them into successes