The whale watching ship Opal with a whale's tail fin breaking the water in front of the ship.

Rensea Partner Nominated for Prestigious Tourism Award

North Sailing from Húsavik in Iceland is nominated for being the first company in the world to offer carbon-free whale watching tours with their sailing ship Ópal.

Ópal is the result of the Rensea II project financed by Nordic Innovation, which saw the whale watching ship being fitted with a so-called Regenerative Plug-In Hybrid Propulsion System, developed by a consortium of several Nordic project partners.

The system gives the ship an electric motor that can be charged while using the sails. This makes it able to travel carbon-free as well as completely silent and allows it to come really close to the whales. This innovative use of green technology has brought North Sailing in contention for the prestigious WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Awards as one of 15 nominees in total.

Sustainable tourism is the future

"It is just fantastic to be nominated. It shows that we are doing something right and encourages us to keep going, says Gudbjartur Ellert Jónsson", general manager of North Sailing.

North Sailing is aiming to reduce the carbon footprint of their fleet, and two of their nine vessels will soon be able to run only on batteries.

Jónsson believes that the future of tourism lies very much in developing sustainable attractions and thinks that the fact that one of the biggest and most prestigious awards is emphasising sustainable solutions sends a strong signal to the tourism industry.

"Yes, it does. It is amazing, since Húsavik only has 2200 inhabitants and we are a rather small company in an international scale. That is a statement to others that everyone can contribute in making the world better no matter how big or small you are."

Celebrated technology

Since the launch of Ópal in July last year, North Sailing has received much recognition for their carbon-free whale watching tours.

In November, they were named joint-Silver winner of the Best Innovation for Carbon Reduction category at the World Responsible Tourism Awards 2015 at World Travel Market in London.

In December, the whale watching company were chosen among the top 10 projects in the Travel category of 2016’s GreenTec Awards, Europe’s biggest environmental and business prize. Voting ended 13 January 2016.

Jónsson is grateful for all the Nordic partners that contributed to the Rensea II project, making the realisation of retrofitting Ópal possible.

"We never would have finished this project [Ópal] without all the partners involved and we appreciate all of them", says the general manager.

We tagged along on a trip with Ópal in Oslo last year. See the ship and the project partners explaining the technology and the Rensea project.

Project background

The Rensea II project was financed by Nordic Innovation through the Nordic Solved funding program. Through the project, the partners have designed a regenerative plug-in hybrid electric propulsion system (RPHP) for sailboats. The design is modular so that it can be fitted to different types of sailboats.

Project partners: