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Offshore, AF Gruppen

World class comfort in extreme conditions

Both vessels were purpose built by the Ulstein Verft shipyard on behalf of Lindblad Expeditions, a leading provider of expedition cruises and adventure travel.

The two cruise ships, christened ‘National Geographic Endurance’ and ‘National Geographic Resolution’ were designed for expedition cruises in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Both vessels are based on the revolutionary X-BOW hull concept. Instead of rising with the waves and then dropping with colossal force, the X-BOW distributes the force more evenly across the hull’s surface – enabling the ship to remain more stable and use less fuel.

“These regions can often be desolate, with high winds, harsh weather conditions and big temperature fluctuations.  This in turn sets tough requirements for stable ventilation and cooling systems,” says Vidar Hungnes, Ulstein’s Discipline Leader – HVAC, Production.

Proprietary control system

The engineers who designed and delivered the ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVAC – Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning), as well as cooling equipment and onboard storage solutions for provisions, are based at AF AeronMollier’s offices in Flekkefjord, Norway. These systems are mission critical since they are tasked with guaranteeing a good indoor climate and ensuring energy efficiency and stable operation. An automated system is dedicated to the monitoring and remote control of the systems from the onshore base.

“The way we tackle heating and cooling needs on board cruise ships is different from our approach on an offshore supply vessel. There are higher requirements in terms of overall comfort, not to mention the need for individual temperature regulation in each and every cabin. There are also common areas on board cruise ships that need to be operated in an energy efficient way,” says Fred Arve Normann, Project Manager at AF AeronMollier.

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Highest class of comfort

Cruise ships bound for remote polar regions are subject to special requirements.

The ‘National Geographic Endurance’, which was delivered by the shipyard in the spring of 2020, was the first of the two sister ships fulfilling the requirements stipulated for Polar Class (5) vessels. This is the strictest comfort class set out in standards published by registrar DNV-GL. This classification entails enhanced safety and environmental requirements. If these are satisfied, the ship may enter polar regions earlier in the spring when nature is at its most beautiful. This means a great deal to an operator of Lindblad’s calibre.

“This comfort class has demanded a lot from the engineers who designed these vessels. The levels of assistance and integration offered are very good. The result is not only stable but well thought-through. We opted for AF AeronMollier on the basis of positive experiences with them on several previous projects,” Vidar Hungnes says.

“Should any challenges arise, these can be resolved rapidly and with the best possible outcome,” he adds.

New market opportunities

AF AeronMollier has extensive experience in supplying ventilation and air conditioning systems to both the offshore and marine sectors. Following a decline in the building of new offshore vessels some years ago, the company began to explore opportunities to develop and deliver greener, more energy efficient solutions to a wider market. One of the outcomes of this was its proprietary system (the Aeron Energy Recovery System) which is extremely energy efficient. This system has been fitted in a number of battery-powered and hybrid vessels.

“Our competitive edge is that we have the expertise we need right here in house. We have our own engineers who not only design and program our solutions, but are also familiar with the levels of comfort and regulatory requirements that our customers must meet. Should there be a need for assistance, we can connect to the ship via Aeron Connect and resolve most issues from our offices. The alternative in the past was to despatch a service technician to the ship itself. This means we are now able to solve challenges quickly and efficiently,” says Fred Arve Normann.

The first ship, National Geographic Endurance (yard number 312), was handed over to its owner in March 2020. National Geographic Resolution (yard number 316) was delivered in 2021.