Eksfin nears NOK 10bn in loan financing for green ship projects

Eksfin nears NOK 10bn in loan financing for green ship projects
Le Commandant Charcot in a polar environment. Image courtesy of PONANT/Nicolas Dubreuil

Norwegian export credit agency Eksfin (formerly Export Credit Norway and GIEK) has provided loan guarantees approaching 1 billion Euro for the construction of 35 eco-friendly vessels over the last four years.

One of the loans was for the Le Commandant Charcot, a polar exploration cruise ship recently delivered to French cruise line PONANT by Norwegian shipbuilder VARD. The delivery of Le Commandant Charcot highlights 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.

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.

PONANT estimates that using LNG will reduce emissions of sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and carbon dioxide (CO2) by 95 per cent, 85 per cent and 25 per cent, respectively, compared to conventional cruise ships. Le Commandant Charcot is also designed for optimal energy efficiency and minimal footprint using innovative systems engineered by VARD’s specialised business units. The ship’s comprehensive electrical solution features state-of-the-art battery technology from Norway’s Corvus Energy.

“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.

“PONANT aims at proposing purposeful and sustainable luxury experience aboard small ships. Le Commandant Charcot is the latest and the most iconic member of our fleet with an ultra-luxurious vessel sailing in never-yet-cruised destinations with unique environmental features. Eksfin’s efficient assistance together with our lenders helped to make this extraordinary ship a reality,” said PONANT CFO Mr. Alexis Blavette.

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 will deploy the 245-passenger ship on polar cruises to the Arctic and Antarctica. Shipping activity in these remote areas is subject to strict regulation. Le Commandant Charcot has been certified by Bureau Veritas not only with PC2 polar ice class, but also with ‘Clean Ship’ and ‘Comfort Class’ status thanks to cutting-edge technologies that reduce not only environmental impact but also noise and vibration while ensuring the highest level of safety.

Other Norwegian companies made use of Eksfin’s financing for green ship projects including Hurtigruten for hybrid cruise ships; ferry operators Norled, Boreal and Fjord1 for diesel-electric, hydrogen-electric and fully electric ferries; Color Line for what is the world’s largest hybrid cruise-ferry; fishing company Cetus for onshore power connection; and tanker operator Altera Shuttle Tanker for LNG-powered tankers with volatile compound (VOC) emissions recovery.