Norwegian export credit agency Eksfin (formerly Export Credit Norway and GIEK) is playing a major role in accelerating the ‘green shift’ at sea.

Eksfin CEO Ms. Tone Lunde Bakker

Eksfin has provided loan guarantees approaching 1 billion Euro for the construction of 35 eco-friendly vessels over the last four years – including Le Commandant Charcot, the world’s most exclusive polar exploration cruise ship recently delivered to French cruise line Ponant by Norwegian shipbuilder Vard.

“Our job at Eksfin is to promote Norwegian exports globally and boost the financial capacity of Norwegian industry. In the shipping space we are helping shipowners, shipyards and equipment sub-suppliers to finance an increasing number of vessels featuring alternative fuels or new technologies that reduce harmful emissions. We are now close to the milestone figure of NOK 10bn and will continue to pursue projects with a strong environmental profile reflecting the industry trend towards more sustainable operations,” said Eksfin CEO Ms. Tone Lunde Bakker.

The delivery from Vard Søviknes of Le Commandant Charcot serves to highlight Eksfin’s decisive role in financing such projects. Vard won the Ponant contract thanks in part to Eksfin’s state-backed loan and risk guarantees.

“I am very proud of Eksfin’s involvement in securing this project for one of Norway’s top maritime exporters. Our export financing package was important in influencing the shipowner’s choice amid fierce competition between shipbuilders in Finland, German and Norway”, said Ms. Lunde Bakker.

Marseille-based Ponant contributed a significant amount of the contract position from its own resources, with Eksfin providing the outstanding monies in cooperation with French banks. The Eksfin loan amounted to EUR 162.4m, with risk guarantees totalling an even higher EUR 182.7m.

Eksfin earlier contributed to the financing of six expedition cruise ships also built by Vard for Ponant, but this seventh ship is unique and, as the world’s first hybrid-electric, LNG-powered vessel with icebreaking capacity, the first ever of its type.

Ponant estimates that using LNG will reduce emissions of sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and carbon dioxide (CO2) by 95%, 85% and 25%, respectively, compared to conventional cruise ships.

Le Commandant Charcot is also equipped with research facilities that will enable the scientific community to study and analyse water, air, ice and biological diversity at the extreme poles.

By Jake Frith