Battery-powered vessels, an expanded small-ship fleet and new adventurous destinations are all on the cards for Hurtigruten in the near future, according to its chief executive, as the firm sets out to change its reputation as a pure Norwegian specialist.

Hurtigruten chief, Daniel Skjeldam, told Travel Weekly that being the largest operator to the Arctic and, from next winter, the largest in the Antarctic, gave the line an ‘obligation’ to invest in new technology to reduce their environmental impact.

He said: “We want to be at the forefront of developing an environmentally friendly way to travel. Our guests are very conscious of the environment, and as our ships are sailing to areas of the world where climate change is happening – because global warming has the most impact around the polar regions, we can see this is affecting animal life in the areas where we work – we feel an obligation to do something.

“It won’t be many years down the road before Hurtigruten will have battery packs on board the vessels. Just by introducing shore power, which we are already doing, we are reducing emissions while we are in port. Just in Bergen, that is 1,600 tons of nitrogen oxide per year, and the CO2 reduction is even greater.”

Skjeldam said the rollout would depend on the pace of technological development, but the firm is already working with engineers to create vessels that could travel on battery power for between two and four hours, then switching to algae-based fuels until they reach a port recharging point.

The line has also invested $100 million in its fleet, with new ship Spitsbergen to set sail in May, and four of its 90s-class ships having undergone extensive refurbishment.

But Skjeldam stressed that he wanted to expand the fleet with new 300 to 600-berth ships, able to attract customers who might not normally consider a cruise, in line with the firm’s more adventurous focus.

He said: “We will see quite a significant growth in small ships. I think small ships are able to attract both customers from larger ships and also customers who are new to the cruise industry.

“In five years, I think we will have Hurtigruten vessels all over the globe, not in the packed waters of the Mediterranean, but in areas where we have a competitive advantage.

“We still have a lot of room for growth in the Norwegian coast, but Explorer cruises are our niche and that’s the segment that we will drive significantly over the years to come.”

Hurtigruten has already announced itineraries in the Amazon and eastern Canada starting 2017, and is eyeing Alaska alongside other potential warm-water destinations.