Reko-Antti Suojanen: Aker Arctic is a company specialising in the development and design of ice-going vessels, and, given our long history with these ships, we have lot of accumulated know-how on operational requirements, and how to meet those technically in the best way. We have the world's largest design references for icebreaking ships. More than 100 vessels designed by us are in service in Arctic waters, which speaks to the level of our expertise.
The big difference with Arctic ships is that they need to be purpose-built and equipped for these special conditions, otherwise there will be serious problems in terms of safety - and also the business case is jeopardised if the wrong solutions are used. Entering the Arctic cruising market requires long-term, careful planning. First of all, one needs the right ships. A new-build vessel takes time but, to some extent, conversion can be an alternative to reach the Arctic market faster. However, in both cases, good planning and design of the ships for their purpose needs to be done. We also provide support for ship operators in order to optimise their business case and plan for practical operations.
Proper winterisation and passenger comfort are not incompatible, in fact, vice versa - smoothly working devices, heated safety walkways and heated balconies add to customer safety and comfort. Also the fact that ship insulation and air-conditioning systems are properly designed for Arctic conditions enhances passenger comfort. Aker Arctic has a subsidiary, Starkice, that specialises in winterisation and de-icing systems such as teak wood-style deck heating panels.
A good, detailed training plan; well-executed training in cooperation with a competent partner; and using a simulator to train a crew to operate on ice. Systematic, advanced virtual simulator training can help crew to practise operations and manoeuvres for icy condition, without risk to the environment, crew or ship. Training should take into account the cold and darkness that crew members will be working in, as well as thorough drills on rescue and evacuation procedures - because in extreme conditions, every second counts. They will need to understand the risks of all the environmental hazards they might encounter, from extreme weather to wildlife.
There are several tools that can, and should, be taken and used when planning a cruise. Satellite ice imagery; weather services; ice reconnaissance; ice advisers with local knowledge; route selection and timing; land and helicopter support; and icebreaker support are just a few of the safeguards that operators can use in the planning stages.
Safety. It is of paramount importance for safety that the cruise ship is designed precisely for the conditions in which the trip takes place. I believe that there are now unnecessary risks taken when operating on high-risk routes with vessels of an ice class that is too low. Operators, of course, want to offer their passengers unforgettable experiences: nature, animals, icebergs and snow. But they must also take into account the sensitive nature and environment of the Arctic regions. Vessels must be able to operate in these areas without compromising the delicate balance of nature and animals.
Cruise passengers want more exhilarating experiences, which means that cruise ships have to get into the most challenging conditions. Aker Arctic is prepared for this and has designed cruise ship concepts with a strong ice class, capable of operating in extreme conditions. These ships might also use LNG for fuel, so that harmful emissions to the environment can be minimised. When others only look for ice, we experience it.