Third and Fourth Quarterly Update for 2021, and First Quarterly Update for 2022

For those readers who have visited the site looking for Polar Cruising updates, my apologies for the lack of posts. Health problems that started as I was writing the third quarter 2021 update, culminated in a hospital stay over Christmas and New Year have only recently abated. I have now been able to get back to reviewing material in my cruise files, as well as writing a comprehensive update to Of Penguins and Polar Bears.


I commenced the never-posted Third Quarter update by noting that expedition cruise activity was slowly returning to a semblance of normality in the Southern hemisphere, but activity in the North polar region would have to wait until 2022 for any significant vessel presence. I had remarked in earlier updates that a pro-active approach by Iceland had drawn a large number of ships anxious to offer their guests some opportunities to go cruising again. Activity though was still very dependent on the pandemic policies of key home-port countries.

However, Antarctic cruises could not really be planned until Chile and Argentina approved cruise company plans for turnarounds at Punta Arenas, Puerto Williams and, for the vast majority of operators – Ushuaia. Several companies resolved the situation by creating bubble environments with direct, or one stop, charter flights from Northern hemisphere airports. Although it is too early for official data on visits, it would appear that between 25-30 expedition vessels made the voyage south.

Although it does not materially affect expedition cruising, the big news was the collapse of Genting, the parent company of Crystal, Dream and Star Cruises, as well as shipbuilder MV Werften. This strands Crystal’s only expedition ship – Crystal Endeavour. She undertook an inaugural programme of Icelandic cruises following delivery from MV Werften, and then sailed to Antarctica, where her season was cut short by Genting’s bankruptcy. After spending from 15 February to 10 March 2022 at anchor in Montevideo, she is currently in the Gibraltar anchorage. Although MV Werften will probably be salvaged, along with the partially completed Dream cruise ship, it is most unlikely that the two follow-on Crystal expedition cruise ships will be laid down.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the ensuing sanctions placed on Russia, will have a significant impact on quite a number of expedition cruise companies and itineraries. They will make North Pole cruises (except by Le Commandant Charcot), as well itineraries that involve a North East Passage and any calls at Russian ports impossible for the foreseeable future.

As in past updates, the most appropriate reference to a passage in Of Penguins and Polar Bears, is provided.

Ships and Companies

EcoClipper, a Dutch company has been working with Cape Horn Engineering to design a fully rigged cargo/passenger ship capable of carrying 500tonnes of cargo together with 12 passengers.

The ships would operate with a 12-person crew plus up to 36 trainees, and the company envisages a small fleet of such ships operating on different routes. Although a route around Cape Horn is not mentioned in the literature, one can hope, given the name of the design company, that such a route might be economically feasible. EcoClipper recently announced it was acquiring the 110year old sailing schooner – De Tukker – and plans to return her to commercial service1.

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines. Although not an expedition company, it is interesting that FOCL has recently recreated cruises from the UK with their smaller cruise ships Borealis and Bolette that incorporate the Norwegian Fjords, Svalbard, Jan Mayen Island and Iceland. This itinerary was popular with British cruise companies in the 1930’s, pp65.

Hurtigruten Expeditions undertook their third battery/hybrid cruise ship conversion – the Otto Sverdrup, which commenced a year-round series of cruises from Hamburg to the Norwegian Fjords in August 2021 following completion of work.

mv Otto Sverdrup.

The company also announced two unique pole-to-pole cruises for 2022, with a follow-on programme for 2023. The Roald Amundsen will undertake a 93-day cruise out of Vancouver BC, while the Fram offers a shorter 66-day cruise from Cambridge Bay NU. The Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen will undertake the 2023 cruises.

The company celebrated 125 years of expedition cruising by christening the Nansen at Svalbard in September 2021, pp 139-140.

Le Commandant Charcot, Ponant’s flagship PC2 icebreaker was officially launched at Le Havre, with the granddaughter of Jean-Baptiste Charcot in attendance. The ship had previously undertaken owner’s trials off Greenland, and visited the North Pole on 06 October using LNG for propulsion bunkered earlier at Le Havre. She then headed for Punta Arenas and her inaugural Antarctic season. This was successfully completed when a record-breaking southern latitude of 78°44.3’ South in the Bay of Whales in the Ross Sea on 27 February 2022 was reported. She also assisted the RRS Sir David Attenborough by breaking a channel for the ship, pp92-93.

Le Commandant Charcot and the RRS Sir David Attenborough (British Antarctic Survey photograph)

Lindblad Expeditions announced that they may build more expedition ships, or acquire suitable vessels. They purchased Crystal Esprit for deployment in the Galapagos Islands as National Geographic Islander II, pp149-150.

National Geographic Resolution is the sister vessel to the National Geographic Endurance, which was delivered in March 2020. The Resolution uses Ulstein’s X Bow design, and she was christened in Antarctica on 23 November 2021, pp90.

Christening of National Geographic Resolution. Photograph from

OceanSky Cruises is a new company that proposes to offer airship trips to the North Pole from Longyearbyen. The Airlander 10 is 98m long, and could take up to 16 passengers in 8 double cabins on two-night, 38 hour trips. There would be 7 crew, of which four would be airship pilots. First flights are scheduled for 2024/25.

The airship’s design is built for viewing unique wildlife while in flight. Realisation by Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd/Design Q/OceanSky


OneOcean Expeditions The saga continued on 01 November 2021, when the Akademik Ioffe was arrested in Skagen, Denmark, as part of the ongoing dispute between OneOcean and the Shirshov Institute, the putative owners of the ship. The ship was released a month later, but reports were unclear as to the rationale behind the release. Through the kind assistance of an Admiralty Attorney, with a knowledge of ship arrests, I was provided with a translation of the Danish court ruling. The court accepted that the ships were actually owned by the Russian state, and at the time of arrest were on a state-sanctioned scientific mission. As such they could not be held, pp80-81.

Residential Ships

Since 2002 anyone wishing to have an apartment on a residential cruise ship had only one choice – The World. However, reports suggest that several ships are either under serious consideration, although only one is actually being built. A project that has been mooted for some time, but despite a splashy web site, doesn’t seem to be going ahead is mv Utopia. The Samsung shipyard web site press pages do not make any mention of the ship.

Another ship that does not seem to be under construction is mv Narrative, supposedly being built by Storylines Residences in China, with a proposed delivery date in Q4 2023. Originally seen as a ship conversion, the project segued to new construction at Brodosplit. Layout appears to be somewhat fluid as reports indicate the addition of a deck and a reduction in the number of residential suites from 627 to 547, with a raft of new amenities.

One that may be under construction at Mayer Werft, with delivery in 2025, is my Njord, although the yard website notes that the order is subject financing. Another residential yacht – my Somnio, is actually under construction at Vard, with delivery planned for 2024. Another possible residential ship is Blue World, a proposed combination residential and paying passenger cruise ship conversion. Apart from the size of the original ship (900 passengers), the proposed number of owners’ suites – 40, and passenger staterooms -310, little additional information is available.

None of the ships mention an ice class, but all websites, wax eloquent about the ship being able to travel anywhere in the world, and some show the ship in polar waters. The World visited Antarctica on four occasions, and undertook NWP transits in 2012 and 2019, pp174, 190.

Comparative details of Proposed Residential Ships with The World



LOA x Beam



The World


196 x 29.8





296 x 36





226 x 30





289.3 x 33.5





222.5 x27



Scintilla. Tillberg Design, together with Naval Architects Laurent Giles, Dream Liner Yachts and IYC have announced a new mega yacht. Designed for 36 passengers in 18 suites, plus 44 crew, the 222m long vessel apparently also has six duplex guest suites, so capacity could approach 50 persons. The five decks will have three dining areas, five lounges and a full complement of toys, together with the means to launch them. Propulsion is a battery/hybrid system to minimize emissions.

Scintilla realisation as shown in the Robb Report

Shinkai is a newbuild 59.8m LOA, ice class, megayacht, being completed in the Netherlands. It has been designed specifically to accommodate a U-Boat Worx C-Researcher 3 submersible, which has a 16-hour range at depths up to 480metres. In addition to the submersible, the boat also carries a Toyota Land Cruiser.

Accommodation includes six guest suites and, while megayachts usually have a lavish owner’s suite, Shinkai has an owner’s deck.

U-Boat Worx C-Researcher 3 submersible

SH Minerva. Swan Hellenic’s first of class was delivered in November 2021 and is the first of three ships being built at Helsinki. SH Minerva and sister ship SH Vega are PC 5 ice-class and can accommodate 152 guests in 76 suites and staterooms, the majority with large balconies. A larger PC6 ice-class vessel accommodating 192 guests in 96 staterooms and suites will be delivered by year-end 2022, pp96

SH Minerva in Antarctica

Sunstone has delivered two more of its seven ship series of PC6 ice class expedition ships.

mv Sylvia Earle

The Sylvia Earle will join Aurora Expedition’s Greg Mortimer, while Ocean Victory is on a split charter to Albatros for the Austal summer period, and American Queen Voyages (previously Victory Cruise Lines) for the Northern summer. Each charter will be about six months in length, pp95.

mv Ocean Victory

Viking Octantis, designed, like its sister ship Viking Polaris, with the Great Lakes in mind, has dimensions constrained by the lock dimensions that permit access to this region. Dimensions (in metres) are 203m LOA, 24m beam, 6.1m draft, 30,150grt with accommodation for 378 passengers served by 256 crew members. The vessel has a Polar 6 ice capability. The ship has many interesting features, but one that will likely be well occupied during trips through the Seaway locks is the forward Lounge, pp95.

The two-deck Explorers’ Lounge at the bow of the Viking Octantis.

World Navigator is the second in a six ship series of 200 passenger luxury expedition ships planned by Mystic Invest Holdings. The ship commenced its service with Mystic’s US operator, Atlas Ocean Voyages, by undertaking a series of itineraries in the Mediterranean followed by a programme in Antarctica, pp90.

mv World Navigator

Zero Emission Cruise Ships Two zero emission cruise ships have been announced.

Brodosplit has commenced construction of a 24 passenger three masted electric drive cruise ship with 30tonnes of batteries. Dimensions are 63.5m LOA x 10m beam.

Northern Xplorer has announced a larger zero emission cruise ship concept that will use hydrogen fuel cells and electric drive. The company plans to build 14 of the 300 passenger ships targeted at Norway’s decision to make the World Heritage locations of Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord emission free by 2026.


Antarctic Research and Re-Supply Ships The 2021/22 Antarctic season saw inaugural voyages by two new research/re-supply vessels. These were the British flag RRS Sir David Attenborough, and the Australian flag Nuyina. The Nuyina suffered some electrical problems related to its propulsion system during her delivery voyage, but went on to successfully complete her mission. The RRS Sir David Attenborough needed assistance from Ponant’s Le Commandant Charcot while in Antarctica, and was unable to complete all her re-supply plans.

On 17 February, the US Flag Polar Star reached a position of 78° 44.022′ south latitude in Bay of Whales. She kept the southernmost latitude record for only 10 days, before Ponant took it from them with Le Commandant Charcot.


Comparative Details of New Antarctic Research and Re-supply Ships


RRS Sir David Attenborough


Design & Construction Cost



Dimensions, metres









Research Complement



Ice class Hull

Polar 4

Polar 3

Ice Class Propulsion

Polar 5

Polar 3

The SA Agulhas II was also in Antarctica on charter to Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust and National Geographic, in a search for Shackleton’s ship Endurance that went down in 1915. The ship was found, upright on the seabed, over 3,000mtres below sea level.

Stern of Endurance Photograph: Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust and National Geographic


There is an understandable concern regarding the Antarctic Environment, given the recent reports by the United Nations on climate change. This concern is linked, inevitably, to the inability of the CCAMLR (pp159) to move ahead on MPA’s proposed many years ago, due to the intransigent self-interest of Russia and China. The latter country justifies its actions, in part, by claiming that it has been denied its proper (i.e. dominant) role in Polar affairs. There isn’t a shred of evidence to support this claim.

HMS Protector, a Royal Navy Research and Re-supply ship, has found more evidence of global climate change. While undertaking survey work in Glacier Bay, Coronation Island in the South Orkneys, they found that the Sunshine Glacier ice wall was 700metres north of where it was plotted in 2001. This loss of ice represents about 14% of the glacier’s mass.

HMS Protector delivers supplies to the BAS outpost on Rothera (Royal Navy)


An article in The Conversation in February 2022. reports on a New Zealand project into the Kamb Ice Stream under the Ross Ice Shelf. The rivers that flow under the Antarctic ice sheet lubricate the underside of the ice sheets and facilitate their movement towards the ocean.

How these rivers work will be a major factor in sea level rise over the coming decades, but their influence is little understood. Investigation poses some problems as they are, typically, under some 500metres of ice, and may be up to 500km from the ice shelf where they debut into the ocean.

Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fisheries

The Southern Ocean is also subject to extensive IUU fishing (illegal, unreported and unregulated), and although directed primarily at the Indo-Pacific region, the XView3 competition sponsored by The Pentagon and the NGO – Global Fishing Watch – could be beneficially applied to this region. The competition, which comes with a $150,000 prize, follows the success of XView2, which produced a natural disaster detection algorithm that proved valuable in detecting 2019/20 Australian bush fires as well as in the 2020 California wild fires and the 2020 hurricane season. Xview3 harnesses the power of independent software developers to use AI in the analysis of satellite imagery to find ships that have turned off their AIS, and cannot be identified from publicly available resources.


Krill is the foundation of all marine life in the Southern Ocean; (see pp 159) Norway is the biggest harvester of Krill, where most goes into salmon feed, although one company is advertising Red Krill Oil as a source of Omega3. The following graphics are taken from an excellent article in The China Dialogue that analyses the situation in some detail. (

Of concern is the rapid increase in catches by China, up from 50,000tonnes in 2019 to nearly 120,000tonnes in 2020. A significant presence could dramatically reduce the availability for wildlife. Also of concern Russia, which used to be a major presence in krill trawling until the collapse of the Soviet Union, announced that it was going to invest $640m in krill fishing, pp159

Wartsila Representation of a new Shen Lan krill trawler, one of several high-tech krill fishing vessels operated by China.

CCAMLR’s main krill conservation measure expired in 2021. Member countries could only agree to renew the current agreement.

Marine Protected Areas

The CCAMLR had three MPA proposals for discussion at its 2021 meeting.

The first would see three blocks of ocean and ocean floor protected along East Antarctica, an area rich in corals and penguin prey. This proposal has been discussed, without success, for nine years in a row. It was thought that this MPA had the best chance of moving forward.

The second proposal was for a new 1.8 million km2 MPA north of the continent in the Weddell Sea. This MPA was put forward in 2018 by the EU and subsequently received support from other members

A third proposal was put forward in 2017 by Argentina and Chile, and would create an MPA to the west of the Antarctic Peninsula, an area particularly vulnerable to the impacts of tourism, fishing and climate change. Up to three-quarters of Antarctica’s krill is also located there.

Russia and China opposed the adoption of these new MPAs, and as a result they were not adopted, pp160


There may be some good news for whales, in that the Japanese whaling mother ship Nisshin Maru may be too costly to replace. Whether this will deter the Japanese from their fishery is moot though, pp106-107

Kyodo Senpaku file image of the Nisshin Maru


Arctic Council. Due to Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the Arctic Council4 has paused all work to review how the group, of which Russia is a key member and current chair, can move forward. Much of the work in the Arctic does not involve Russia, and will not be affected. It is any Council activity, particularly its working groups, where Russia is directly involved that will be disrupted

Heavy Fuel The Clean Arctic Alliance has been making waves, again, about the use of heavy fuel in the Arctic. As pointed out in earlier updates, and in a piece posted on their use is not a significant pollution risk. Banning their use will cause economic harm to countries with mining and development activities, with very little environmental benefit.

Climate Change Evidence continues to accumulate that the Arctic Ocean could be ice free within a very short period of time. The two Landsat images which follow show how much change there has been in the last 50 years. Images from a recent Cryopolitics article by Mia Bennett:

Arctic Fisheries In an important development, the Central Arctic Ocean Fisheries Agreement has come into force, and will ban commercial fishing in the Central Arctic Ocean (see graphic below) for a period of 16 year from 2021. A secondary part of the agreement provides for scientific research and monitoring of the region to determine whether fish stocks could ever be harvested commercially.

Graphic from an article in the China Dialogue 24 August 2021

North West Passage

Although cruise ships have not been able to make trips through the NWP since 2019, there has been quite a bit of activity. The USCG cutter Healy made a West to East passage in September, as did HMCS Harry deWolf, but on an East to West passage, culminating in a circumnavigation of North America in 2021. There were also three commercial transits by Wagenborg5 ships; Eastbound with anodes for the aluminium smelter at Becancour, Westbound with wood pulp from Canada to South Korea, and a transit that may have originated in the Mediterranean area, which is understood to have been with cargo from Europe to Japan, pp141-144

There was some controversy about a Chinese yachtsman attempting an Arctic circumnavigation. The Chinese claimed his transit was refused by Canada; Transport Canada’s official statement was that he never entered arctic waters before turning back. The report was dated September, which is very late to be attempting a transit in a small boat.

Incidents (pp198)

Hurtigruten’s Kong Harald, on a Norwegian Fjords coastal cruise, lost all main engine power in a location near where the Viking Sky nearly grounded in 2019. The master was able to use the vessel thrusters to manoeuvre until one main engine could be restarted. The ship went to dock overnight at Molde, and continued the voyage the following day. There were 236passengers and 70crew on board.



1 Other companies are also planning sailing cargo ships

2 May be higher

3 This was a budget figure in 2014, it is probably not the final cost of design and construction. As an example of cost escalation, two Calmac ferries ordered at a Scottish shipbuilder in 2014 (2018 seems to be when the order was confirmed) for a fixed price of £97 will not be delivered until 2023, and may cost in excess of £240.

4 The Arctic Council was formed in 1996 as a high level diplomatic forum representing the eight states with territory north of the Arctic Circle.

5 Wagenborg have been sending ships through the NWP regularly since 2016. They made five transits in 2020