Plastic, pollution and cleaner oceans

Plastic pollution is the single largest threat to our oceans. By 2050 there will be more plastic waste than fish in the sea. Hurtigruten is determined to be part of the solution to this problem – and was the first major travel company to ban single-use plastic.

Operating in some of the world’s most pristine areas for more than 125 years, Hurtigruten is experiencing this devastating development firsthand. We have seen how pollution, discharge and litter directly affects nature, wildlife and local communities.

As the largest expedition cruise company in the world and the most important player in both the Arctic and Antarctica, we take the responsibility to lead by example and move the industry forward. That is why we advocate for stricter rules and regulations, and it’s why we aim to become the world’s first plastic-free travel company.

Changing the world of adventure

We are constantly improving how we reduce, recycle, and handle our waste—and sharing everything we learn along the way. Our crews and guests collect metric tons of waste from beaches every year and are educated and trained in conservation. Hurtigruten spreads awareness about pollution in every way we can, engaging in strategic partnerships, working with relevant organizations, and conducting research and real time monitoring of the oceans.

Hurtigruten invests in cutting-edge technology and advanced innovations throughout our entire organisation. We are building the world’s greenest and most advanced fleet of expedition cruise ships to change the world of adventure travel changing the world of expedition travel. We are continuously drilling down into every detail to ensure that we keep improving.

Banning single-use plastic

Hurtigruten has been focused on reducing plastic pollution for years. Each day, 15 metric tons of plastic waste ends up in the oceans. If the trend continues, this number will double in the next 10 years. This means that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans.

Hurtigruten is on its way to becoming the world’s first plastic-free travel company. And Hurtigruten was the first major travel company to remove single-use plastic from all our ships, restaurants, and hotels. Plastic straws have been removed or replaced; we no longer use stir pins, and the same with plastic cups wrapped in plastic, plastic cutlery, plastic bags, plastic lids on coffee cups, plastic toothpicks, plastic aprons, single-use packaging of butter and all other single-use plastic items that Hurtigruten’s 500,000 guests and 2,500 employees encounter on a day-to-day basis.

We have removed or replaced plastic packaging with environmentally friendly alternatives made of paper, metal or other biodegradable and sustainable materials. And most importantly, this means a huge cut in single-use items altogether.

But the solution to the plastic crisis depends on more than just one company. At Hurtigruten, we actively  spread our experiences from our plastic reduction program and engage our guests, allies, competitors, local communities, authorities and anyone else who wants to join in the fight. We have also implemented stricter sustainability demands on our suppliers, challenging them to reduce or stop their use of single-use plastic.

Caring for the sea

Our vessels produce their own fresh water through onboard desalination and purification technology. We reuse heat from the engines and exhaust systems to warm  the hot water tanks on board. This saves an amount of power equivalent to 6700 households per year. We have also implemented new  technology to reduce food waste, as part of our sustainability and waste programs.

We maintain stringent policies regarding discharge into the sea, including a ban on discharging food waste, grey water, bilge water and black water in pristine fjords Hjørundfjorden, Geirangerfjord/ Storfjorden and Lyngenfjorden – as well as  other vulnerable areas.

Real time environmental monitoring

Marine litter and pollution in our oceans is bigger and broader than plastic waste alone. Knowledge and research play an important role, and our fleet is equipped to monitor the oceans and share the results with watchdogs and scientists all over the world in real time. We monitor everything from molecular content to temperature, and have special sensors that can detect even the smallest oil spill both while sailing and during port calls.

Cleaning beaches

The most important everyday task of our crews and guests is to reduce or stop waste before it goes into the oceans. But sometimes, we need to do some first aid as well. Everyday, Hurtigruten Expedition teams take guests on excursions and hikes to truly spectacular place. On every landing at every destination, we encourage our Expedition Teams and guests to take part in cleaning up the waste they find. In addition, Hurtigruten Expedition Teams arrange larger beach cleanups in carefully selected spots, resulting in the removal of several metric tons of waste every year

Spreading awareness – creating ambassadors

Hurtigruten wants to create a deeper understanding of the areas we explore and the opportunities and challenges they are facing. We aim to create ambassadors for every destination on every voyage. Guests are joined by Hurtigruten’s highly skilled and experienced Expedition Teams. With fields of expertise ranging from biology and polar survival to the Northern Lights and sustainability, they engage in talks, lectures and discussions about local cultures, wildlife, nature and pollution – such as plastic and microplastic and how this affects the oceans. Furtnermore,through the Young Explorer program, Hurtigruten introduce and engage young guests in beach cleanups, special lectures and other sustainability activities.

Hurtigruten is proud to engage, support and cooperate with organisations and initiatives like Clean Arctic Alliance, European Climate Foundation, Norwegian Polar Institute - the main research organisation focusing on polar bears living on Svalbard, Bellona Foundation and the Clean Up Svalbard program. In addition, we have established Hurtigruten Foundation to raise awareness and support local and global initiatives that preserve and protect the areas we visit.

Managing waste and stopping spills

All waste generated on all our ships and in our hotels is sorted for recycling. We have worked with partners to install better sorting facilities on board and to ensure adequate infrastructure at key ports to collect and recycle waste from our operations. We also work to influence ports and authorities to provide more responsbile waste management.

We maintain stringent policies regarding discharge into the sea, including a ban on discharging food waste, grey water, bilge water and black water in vulnerable areas. We are of course also in compliance with the Ballast Water Convention.

Reducing food waste through innovation

Food procurement and service  monitoring

When serving over 4 million meals each year, even a tiny reduction in food waste can make a huge difference. For us, tiny is not enough. That’s why we have pledged to reduce food waste by up to 30 per cent by 2021. We have implemented digital registration and real-time measurement scheme for all stages of our food production to collect the data we need to minimize food waste. Our early results show more than a 30 percent expected reduction.

Food systems sustainability efforts

Hurtigruten has also signed a three-year agreement with the EAT foundation, whose mission is to catalyse a food system transformation through sound science, disruption and novel partnerships. Our partnership aims at exploring further initiatives to improve our  food systems sustainability efforts and broaden the on board food offering.

Food traceability

What we take out of the water is equally important as what we put in.  Needless to say, Hurtigruten maintains a ban on all unsustainable-listed seafood, and we demand third party certification of all fish purchased (MSC, ASC or equivalent)

Reducing fuel consumption and banning heavy fuel oil

Hurtigruten’s ultimate goal is to operate our ships completely emission-free. By introducing the world’s first hybrid-electric powered cruise ships, we are taking industry-leading steps. By retrofitting existing ships with large battery packs and LBG/LNG engines, we are constantly innovating to reach this goal.

But while we are moving boundaries and pushing the industry forward, we need to make sure our ships use as little fuel as possible. And even more important, use the cleanest fuel possible. Reducing fuel consumption is one of our single most important environmental tasks. As opposed to most other shipping companies, none of Hurtigruten’s ships use cheap polluting, and dangerous heavy fuel oil (HFO).

HFO, which is one of the world’s dirtiest fuels, is not only extremely difficult to clean up in the event of a spill, but also produces higher levels of air and climate pollutants than other marine fuels. Given the severe risks that heavy fuel oil poses to polar environments, the international shipping and travel community has already banned its use in the Antarctic. We have always believed that the Arctic, with its unique local communities and fragile ecosystems, needs the same protection.

With leading environmental partners such as Clean Arctic Alliance and European Climate Foundation, Hurtigruten is spearheading a campaign to ban the use of HFO in Arctic waters. In 2019, AECO, the umbrella industry for cruise tourism, embraced this ban.