Ulstein shows pioneering spirit in new markets

Innovative designs and high added-value production from the Ulstein yard in western Norway
Innovative designs and high added-value production from the Ulstein yard in western Norway
Ulstein Verft’s latest delivery, walk-to-work windfarm support vessel 'Acta Auriga' (photo: Benny Banen, Acta Marine)
Ulstein Verft’s latest delivery, walk-to-work windfarm support vessel 'Acta Auriga' (photo: Benny Banen, Acta Marine)

While building on strengths in the offshore market, Ulstein Verft has added hybrid ro-pax ferry and polar cruise vessels to the workload, writes David Tinsley.

A jewel in the west Norwegian maritime cluster, the family-owned Ulstein Group last year celebrated a centenary of shipbuilding at Ulsteinvik. The shipyard produces high added-value tonnage and is core to the group’s overall business that also encompasses specialist companies in ship design, technology, power and control systems, and shipowning.

Product quality has been borne out of the needs and conditions of the immediate North Sea and Norwegian Sea market, and of clients requiring tailor-made solutions to exacting standards. While the yard is now showing its mettle in other specialised areas of the shipbuilding market, the longstanding and fundamental relationship with the offshore support business continues to be reflected in the orderbook.

In keeping with the region’s predilection for developing and championing new technological concepts, and given the offshore sector’s standing as one of the most progressive fields of industrial endeavour, the Ulstein name is closely identified with innovation.

As an outstanding example of the group’s capacity to create and commercialise ideas that chime with customers’ practical needs, the advent of the X-BOW in 2005 gave new identity and scope to the portfolio of designs from the Ulstein stable.

First employed on the anchor-handling tug/supply vessel Bourbon Orca completed at Ulsteinvik in 2006, the X-BOW foreship design reduces pitch motions and slamming, improving habitability and seakeeping in rough weather, and achieving higher transit speeds in head seas. Power consumption is reduced by up to 8% relative to vessels with traditional hull lines, resulting in fuel savings. By 2015, over 100 newbuilds at yards worldwide had been specified with the X-BOW form, which continues to find new exponents both within and beyond the offshore domain.


Inspired by the market’s receptivity to the X-BOW and operator feedback, Ulstein devised the X-STERN design. The concept applies X-BOW benefits to the aftship. Whereas the conventional transom stern creates slamming when running astern or position-holding towards waves, wind and current from aft, the inverted stern shape is claimed to result in less motions, less noise and vibration, and increased fuel efficiency.

X-STERN marks the full evolution of the X-hull design and is especially suited, although not limited, to the expanding offshore wind segment and its long-term maintenance support requirements. The sloping and higher stern has been found to improve comfort for crew and technicians and to increase operability through its positive effects on station keeping, wave response and safety in harsh conditions. Working aft-first also affords a better overview from the bridge.

Ulstein’s development of designated service operation vessels (SOVs) constitutes a response to emerging business opportunities in the wind energy sector, and the 2016-commissioned SOV Windea la Cour provided the first embodiment of the X-STERN. German contractual owner BS Offshore went on to bring a sistership, Windea Leibniz, into service from the Norwegian yard last year.

Continuity in SOV production at Ulsteinvik is represented by the SX195-type Acta Auriga, incorporating both X-STERN and X-BOW, and which is to be followed by a second such vessel under a contract sealed with the Dutch company Acta Marine in February this year.

The so-called ‘walk-to-work’ offshore construction and accommodation vessel Acta Auriga encapsulates the Ulstein yard’s focus on sophisticated, customised tonnage and home-grown design. The ship is to be deployed in the German Bight, under a two-year charter with Ocean Breeze Energy (OBE ), to provide logistical support for the maintenance campaign on the Bard Offshore 1 wind farm, located about 100km off the coast.

As steel fabrication and hull construction can be effected so much more cost effectively in Poland, the building of the hull was subcontracted to Crist Shipyard. Following transfer from Gdynia in November 2017, final outfitting was undertaken in the Ulsteinvik yard’s covered dock. This included installation of the mission equipment supplied by the Norwegian company SMST.


The telescopic, motion-compensated gangway system and 6t capacity knuckle boom crane will permit transfers in harsh sea conditions, up to a significant wave height of 3m, increasing the ship’s working window. The tower enables safe and stepless transfer of personnel, equipment and materials between ship and offshore structure, up to a platform height of 23m. Acta Auriga has accommodation for 120 personnel in 80 cabins.

A prestigious, complex project for the shipyard entails Color Line’s new hybrid ferry, to be introduced in mid 2019 on the Sandefjord/Stromstad route connecting southern Norway with southwestern Sweden across the mouth of Oslofjord. The vessel will rank as the world’s largest plug-in hybrid vessel, combining a 5MWh battery pack with a diesel plant based on four Rolls-Royce Bergen B33:45 series engines.

The arrangements will allow the vessel to operate solely on battery power when working in and out of Sandefjord’s inner harbour, giving up to 60 minutes manoeuvring and sailing time at speeds up to 12 knots, obviating pollutant exhaust emissions and considerably reducing noise emissions. Recharging of the batteries will be effected either via power cable from the company’s Sandefjord terminal, or by the ship’s generators. Within main hull dimensions of 160m length and 27.1m breadth, Color Hybrid will carry a maximum 2,000 passengers and 500 cars
Following collaboration between Ulstein Design & Solutions and Fosen Yard in the design planning for Color Hybrid, and given Ulstein’s desire to strengthen its capabilities in the ro-pax segment, the two concerns have established a joint company in Trondheim under the name of Fosen Ulstein Design & Engineering (FUDE). The new enterprise came into being at the start of January this year, with the goal of devising innovative and environmentally friendly solutions for ferry newbuild projects both in Norway and overseas.

The group achieved a bridgehead in the expedition cruise vessel market last year by landing the design and equipment package for a newbuild project in China. It subsequently consolidated its position by attracting an order from the long-established, adventure cruise specialist Lindblad for a polar-class ship to be delivered by the Ulsteinvik yard.

China Merchants Industry Holdings has nominated Ulstein’s CX103 design for the first of four 104m polar-going cruisers ordered by Miami-based SunStone Ships, which has options on up to six further vessels. Planned for delivery in 2019, the lead ship will accommodate 255 passengers and crew, and will be constructed to PC6 polar class.


Prospective operator Aurora Expeditions said: “The vessel is the first (in that market) to use the patented X-BOW technology which has the ability to pierce waves with much greater stability, making open sea journeys—like Antarctica’s notorious Drake Passage—more pleasant for passengers than what is currently available from other small ships on the market today.”

Meanwhile, steel cutting for the polar newbuild scheduled to be introduced to the Lindblad Explorations-National Geographic fleet in 2020 started at Crist Shipyard in early January this year. Final outfitting will be carried out at Ulsteinvik, and the US-based shipowner has appended two options to the contract. The chosen design is the CX102, a derivation of the 165m C102 type, such that the X-BOW form will be a core feature of the new vessel.

The arm of the group known as Ulstein Power & Controls has ensured self-reliance in the sourcing of onboard systems for newbuilds from the shipyard, while also generating an income stream from the wider market. The company’s marine automation (IAS), alarm and monitoring (AMS) and power management (PMS) systems are all built on the proprietary X-CONNECT architecture. X-CONNECT provides a platform for future system development and integration.

Ulstein considers that a systematic and long-term strategic commitment to R&D is crucial to future business success and competitiveness. Augmenting in-house research, the group is involved in a wide range of collaborative projects part-financed by government agencies.

Recent examples include the four-year Sustainable Ship Production (SUSPRO) study carried out under the coordination of NTNU with funding from the Research Council of Norway. SUSPRO’s stated goal is to “Develop knowledge, methods, and life-cycle decision support for sustainable production of highly specialised and capital-intensive ships in uncertain, fluctuating markets.” Another of the shipbuilding research initiatives backed by the Council and partnered by Ulstein is Innovation in Global Marine Production (IGLO-MP 2020).


Yard No







Offshore wind service vessel (Acta Auriga)


Ulstein SX195

Acta Marine, Den Helder

Mar 2018


X-BOW mega yacht


Espen Oeino




Offshore wind service vessel


Ulstein SX195

Acta Marine,

Den Helder

May 2019


Hybrid ro-pax ferry (Color Hybrid)


FUDE (Fosen/Ulstein)

Color Line, Bergen

June 2019


Ice-classed expedition cruise ship


Ulstein CX102

Lindblad Expeditions,

New York

Feb 2020








China Merchants Industry Holdings

Ice-classed expedition cruise vessel*


Ulstein CX103

SunStone Ships, Miami


COSCO (Guangdong) Shipyard

Platform supply vessel (VOS Patriot—6th in series of 6)


Ulstein PX121

Vroon Offshore, Den Helder


Niigata Shipbuilding & Repair

Anchor-handler/deepsea tug (ALP Keeper—4th in series of 4)


Ulstein SX157

ALP Maritime, Rotterdam

Feb 2018

China Merchants Industry Holdings

Heavy-lift crane vessel


Ulstein HX104

Jumbo Shipping

1Q 2020

*plus options on further 9 vessels.


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