Norwegian start-up Northern Xplorer has signed its first newbuilding contract in the race to operate the world’s first zero-carbon cruise ship.

The company has picked West Sea in Portugal to build its maiden vessel, which is expected to be ready in time for the 2025/26 cruise season.

“This is a new milestone on our journey towards emission-free cruising,” said founder and chief executive Rolf Andre Sandvik.

He explained that Northern Xplorer approached yards worldwide in its tender.

“We’re delighted to be embarking on this exciting project with West Sea. They are a modern, professional yard with a good track record,” he added.

The shipowner has worked with technology company ABB on the vessel, for which no price has been revealed.

“As a shipbuilder focused on advanced vessels and high quality, we very much look forward to working together with Northern Xplorer,” said West Sea manager Vitor Figueiredo.

The 250-passenger ship will be built at its facility in Viana do Costello, north of Porto.

The yard has already completed three small cruise vessels for Mystic Cruises, with four more on order.

The Northern Xplorer design features ABB’s fully electric propulsion system, including the battery and hydrogen fuel cell technology that will enable to it to sail emissions-free in the Norwegian fjords and further afield as the green shift takes root.

No final decisions

The owner and ABB are talking to multiple sub-suppliers about vessel systems.

“We haven’t made any final decisions yet because we want to go with the newest technology as it becomes available. Where possible, we also aim to select the most sustainable materials available in the market,” said Sandvik.

The ship has been designed by Multi Maritime in Norway.

TradeWinds has reported that Northern Xplorer is planning a series of 14 identical ships accommodating up to 300 passengers each that will operate in the Nordic countries.