MS Kongen electrical ferry at Aker Brygge. Photo: Pixel & Co

26 Apr 2024

Norled operates first hydrogen ferry and pioneers express boat battery swaps

At Oslo’s bustling harbour, next to Aker Brygge, Norled is Norway’s fourth largest ferry and express boat company, operating 22 contracts along the coast from Tromsø to Oslo with 41 ferries and 34 express boats and a staff of about 1,000. NIB Newsletter is greeted here by CEO Heidi Wolden. She discusses Norled’s green transition leadership and gives a tour of the electric ferry MS Kongen, one of three passenger ferries servicing the Oslo–Nesoddtangen route.

The ferry company has operated since 1855. It was family-owned until 2019, changing ownership to the global real asset investor CBRE Investment Management with Heidi Wolden as CEO.

“It was fantastic to enter Norled in 2020, because we were already on a long journey towards green,” said Wolden.

Striving for sustainability

Norled is committed to reducing emissions by 2040, focusing on low- and zero-emission vessels. The company aims to reduce its CO2 emissions by 67% by 2030 by increasing the fleet’s proportion of low- and zero-emission vessels from 4% in 2019 to 65% by 2030.

Wolden emphasises the importance of three key elements to sustain the green transition: clear emissions standards in all public maritime contracts and necessary financing; predictable energy carrier policies to determine focus areas like ammonia and hydrogen; and sufficient power supply to support these initiatives.

Currently, only 16% of the transport sector and 5% of coastal transport are electrified, not because of technology shortages but because of a lack of political and financial commitment.

“The technology and industry are ready. What we needed now are consistent policies and the determination to implement them,” Wolden said.

In March, NIB signed a NOK 500 million loan with Norled to co-finance the ferry company’s investments in low-carbon ferries and express boats. This may include electric and green hydrogen vessels and related land-based infrastructure in Norway between 2024 and 2030.

World’s first hydrogen-electric ferry

In 2023, Norled introduced MS Hydra, the world’s first hydrogen-electric ferry, under a pilot project tendered by the Norwegian public transport administration. This initiative aims at proving the use of full-scale liquid hydrogen for maritime transport. The ferry, measuring 17 meters in width and 80 meters in length, has the capacity to carry 80 cars and 299 passengers. It operates on a 13-minute route in Rogaland and has maintained a 99.9% operational regularity during its first year.

MS Hydra’s use of liquid hydrogen allows for more efficient refueling processes compared to compressed hydrogen.

The technology and rules and regulations are ready for hydrogen, but there is limited production of hydrogen in Norway.

The challenges with liquid and compressed hydrogen differ significantly, particularly in production, storage, transportation, and bunkering. Liquid hydrogen requires specialised cooling at minus 253 Celsius and storage methods, while compressed hydrogen is transported in maximum 30 kilo containers, affecting both efficiency and infrastructure requirements.

From the presentation on board MS Kongen, we understood that there is generally a lack of understanding of the two types of hydrogen and not enough predictability for businesses looking to use hydrogen, of regulatory measures and which type of hydrogen that is needed.

Quick battery shifts

Norled recognises the considerable CO2 emissions per express boat passenger, noting that they were even higher than those of planes using diesel. In response, Norled plans to launch 13 low or zero-emission express boats in 2024, comprising about 40% of their express boat fleet.

It's a transformational year for us

Heidi Wolden

CEO of Norled


Norled has developed SHIFTR technology to electrify fast ferries with an autonomous battery swap system. The system includes a manipulator, elevator, scalable shuffler, and a quayside or floating terminal battery house. It also features a scalable carousel on the boat deck for one to four batteries.

The SHIFTR system enables a robot to swiftly exchange an empty battery for a fully charged one, greatly reducing downtime linked to quayside charging. This is particularly beneficial for express boats, which demand high energy and speed, making heavy batteries and long charging times impractical. The battery swap process takes approximately three and a half minutes, maintaining strict timetables as passengers board and disembark.

This innovation supports new vessel construction and retrofitting of existing vessels, underscoring Norled’s commitment to boosting operational efficiency and reducing maritime transport’s carbon footprint. Norled would like to see SHIFTR as an industry standard, emphasizing its potential industry impact.

As we leave the MS Kongen, we notice that Norled has started construction of a SHIFTR module. This will definitely spark the interest and imagination of both passengers and passers-by along the Aker Brygge boardwalk.

Watch a short video interview with Heidi Wolden:

Related resources

07 Mar 2024

Norled AS

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