When you’re building an icebreaker that can sail all the way to the North Pole, you need an engine with serious power. But to minimise the environmental impact, that engine needs to be eco-friendly too. And when the vessel also needs to offer a high-end experience for passengers while respecting the underwater fauna, low noise and vibration are absolute musts as well. Luckily for French cruise operator PONANT, the Wärtsilä 31DF engine checks all these boxes.
Deliver an engine with high power but low emissions, noise and vibration.
The Wärtsilä 31DF engine with hybrid operation.
The vessel has the required power to sail in polar regions with minimal environmental impact.
Le Commandant Charcot, the world’s only luxury icebreaker built for polar exploration, is one of the most advanced vessels of her kind. “This vessel has the strongest icebreaking capability in the world. She can sail through 2.5 metres of ice, which gives access to new areas where our guests can discover nature. We’re able to sail where polar explorers went while committing to more sustainable tourism,” says Mathieu Petiteau, Newbuilding and R&D Director at PONANT.
The vessel offers her guests an unparalleled level of comfort thanks to her build quality, amenities and smooth sailing. “Our guests enjoy a vessel with no comparison in terms of refinement, the sensation on board and of course the possibilities for exploration,” explains Petiteau.
Le Commandant Charcot uses the Wärtsilä 31DF engine, which is the most powerful yet fuel-efficient engine in its class. The Wärtsilä 31DF increases vessel availability thanks to a longer interval between overhauls. The engine is also designed to reduce maintenance time and lifecycle costs.
To reduce emissions to the lowest possible level, Le Commandant Charcot uses LNG as a fuel. The vessel also uses hybrid operation, with batteries to handle load fluctuations, maximising engine efficiency and further reducing emissions. This is essential to minimise the environmental impact on the sensitive polar environments where she sails.
Building such an advanced vessel required close cooperation among all the partners, including PONANT, Wärtsilä and the shipyard. “With such a complex design, we have to select partners who believe in the project,” says Petiteau. Using a brand-new engine design could have been a risk too – but Wärtsilä’s rigorous design and testing ensure that all their engines are reliable from day one.
“We are really satisfied with the Wärtsilä 31DF,” explains Petiteau. “From the beginning of this project we wanted to use the most efficient engine on the market. The engines are running fine and we’re happy with the fuel consumption, noise and vibration levels – there is a high level of comfort.” And this level of comfort is critical to creating a premium experience for passengers as they set off to explore the polar regions under the power of the cleanest energy currently available.
Image: © PONANT-Mike Louagie