World Explorer on the River Elbe (credit: Hafen Hamburg/Dietmar Hasenpusch) World Explorer on the River Elbe (credit: Hafen Hamburg/Dietmar Hasenpusch)

Portugal’s marine industries have a prestigious new reference in the fast-growing, expedition-style segment of the cruise market, through the debut of the 9,300gt World Explorer, writes David Tinsley.

The ice-going cruise vessel marries a sophisticated, hybrid diesel-electric propulsion system with a sleek design and is the first in a series of three 200 passenger-capacity newbuilds ordered by Mystic Cruises from the West Sea shipyard in northern Portugal, the former Estaleiros Navais de Viana do Castelo (ENVC).

Mystic is headed by Portuguese entrepreneur Mario Ferreira. The 1B ice class World Explorer is being deployed from November to March under charter to polar specialist Quark Expeditions, headquartered in Seattle. For the rest of the year, her itineraries cover small and distinct ports around the world, normally not accessible to larger cruiseships, under the commercial operation of Ferreira’s German-based Nicko Cruises brand.

The investment in the flotilla is a response to the rising market demand for experience-rich cruise tourism in the Antarctic and Arctic and other regions offering outstanding natural features and historic interest. The compact ship design, developed by Italian naval architect Giuseppe Tringali, and the particular nature of the integrated powering arrangements, attest to the operational and environmental challenges of working a vessel in pristine and confined waters, harbours and shelters.

World Explorer adopts a hybrid energy solution featuring hybrid shaft generators (HSG) and the SAVeCUBE power electric system originating from Rolls-Royce’s commercial marine division, taken over earlier this year by Kongsberg Maritime. The prime movers are all from the Bergen medium-speed engine range, still part of the Rolls-Royce Group through Rolls-Royce Power Systems, and encompassing two eight-cylinder C25:33 main diesels and a six-cylinder model as an auxiliary dual generator.

Main propulsion is provided by two 2,665kW Bergen C25:33 L8P engines each driving a controllable pitch Promas system through a reduction gear with hybrid shaft generator (HSG), so the main engines can be used to provide electrical power. The HSG can also function as electric motors, allowing energy flow to the ship in all modes of operation, even when the propellers are not engaged. The six-cylinder, 2,000kW Bergen auxiliary engine is coupled to two 950kW generators.

The HSG system uses active front end (AFE) technology so that fixed engine revolutions are not required when operating the shaft generators. The switchboard sees a constant voltage and the correct phase angle to match the other gensets running in parallel. Propeller and engine efficiencies can be maximised by ensuring running at the most efficient point.

SAVeCUBE allows the engines to operate at variable speeds, maximising their efficiency for the required power. SAVECUBE has all frequency converters, drives and switchboards integrated into a single cabinet to save space and simplify installation.

With a speed of 16 knots, World Explorer is one of the faster ships plying polar latitudes. A very high level of manoeuvrability is essential to the kind of operating profile entailed with the expedition cruiser. Two 419kW tunnel thrusters are fitted in the foreship, electrically-controlled through converters connected to the SAVeCUBE system, as with two 350kW pump jet thrusters at the stern. The position holding capability also has the merit of obviating the use of anchors where possible, thereby protecting the sea bottom.

Technical consultancy and newbuild supervision for World Explorer at Viana do Castelo were undertaken on Mystic Cruises’ behalf by Schulte Marine Concept, the project management arm of Bernhard Schulte Management, working in conjunction with Bernhard Schulte Cruise services.

Since the Martifer Group took over the business and management of the sub-concession of the former Estaleiros Navais de Viana do Castelo land and infrastructure six years ago, the shipyard has seen a revival in its West Sea guise. To date, it has attracted orders for 15 newbuilds and has also acted as subcontractor to Spanish shipbuilders in Galicia, supplying hull blocks and assemblies.


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