Clean, hydrogen-powered fast ferries could soon be travelling up and down the Norwegian coast. Here is one design for what these vessels could look like, produced by Brødrene Aa. Photo © Brødrene Aa.

Historic step for zero-carbon shipping

A new generation of climate-friendly passenger vessels will soon be serving the Norwegian coast.

This is thanks to Vestland County Council, which has decided to ban fossil fuel‑driven craft from its upcoming tender round for fast ferries.

This means that as early as 2022, passengers will be able to travel for five hours between Bergen and Nordfjord without creating any carbon emissions or air pollution.

The new fast ferries are expected to run on a mix of battery power and hydrogen or ammonia fuel cells, and will travel at more than 30 knots.

The Norwegian Climate Foundation, Zero Emission Resource Organization and NCE Maritime Cleantech have all supported the move.

“Reducing carbon emissions from shipping will be of vital importance, if we are to fulfil national and international climate targets,” the organizations stated in a comment piece.

“Zero‑emissions requirements for fast ferries will drive technology developments, which will be of great value when transferred to other ship categories, and will mean a lot for the competitiveness of our shipping industry here in western Norway,” they continued.

The case for change

The resolution by Vestland County Council means that zero‑emissions craft can be introduced as early as 2022, and by 2024 at the latest.

There is a clear case for taking this step, as the country’s fast ferries are among the worst carbon emitters – producing even more emissions per person-kilometre than inland flights.

What are fast ferries?

  • Light-weight hull; typically catamaran design

  • Faster than a normal passenger ferry (above 20 knots )

  • Travels longer distances than a normal passenger ferry

Nevertheless, the county council’s decision reflects a high level of ambition. This is because these fast ferries would almost certainly need to run on emerging technologies such as hydrogen or ammonia fuel cells. 

Luckily, western Norway’s innovative shipping sector is up to the challenge.

Several Norwegian companies are already working on designs for hydrogen or ammonia‑powered fast ferries as part of a separate project being run by nearby Trøndelag County Council. 

The county council has signed contracts with five different consortia, each of which are working on their own design for a zero‑emissions craft.

Four of the five concepts for fast ferries that were presented to Trøndelag County Council: Flying foil (Brødrene AA og Westcon Power & Automation), ZEFF (Selfa Arctic, Servogear, LMG Marin, Norled og Hyon), Emaran (Fjellstrand) og Brødrene AA (Westcon Power & Automation). Photo © NCE Maritime Cleantech

Building a hydrogen supply chain

Another challenge is that, while hydrogen and ammonia are seen as important for the future of global shipping, they are currently lacking a readymade supply chain in Norway.

Local government, researchers and industry are working hard to change this, and there are a number of partnerships and initiatives aimed at serving the Norwegian coast with liquid hydrogen.

Hydrogen in the shipping industry

Hydrogen fuel cells are currently used in cars, trucks, trains – and could be used in the shipping industry in future. This fuel source:

  • Creates only water and heat as byproducts (no air pollution)

  • Is suitable for longer distances and all ship classes

  • Can be produced using renewable energy

Here are some of the projects currently underway:

Norway has already won the race to build the world’s first battery-electric ferry. In 2021, it will also debut the world’s first hydrogen‑driven passenger ferry.

Now, it looks like the country will be the first to build a completely emissions‑free fast ferry too.


Find out more about Greater Bergen’s shipping industry


Is your company interested in joining the hydrogen supply chain in the Bergen region? If so, you could receive crucial support from Invest in Bergen.

Our organization can provide information, introductions to useful contacts, and we can help you to find the ideal business location in Greater Bergen. If you’re interested in these services, simply get in touch with us today.