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The story of Kvitbjörn, the electric hybrid tour boat in Svalbard

In May this year the Marell M15 Tour boat, named Kvitbjörn, started her operation in Svalbard archipelago. Svalbard is a group of islands located in the Arctic Ocean , only about 1000 kilometers from the North Pole, offering amazing views and unique wildlife to visitors from all around the world.

Kvitbjörn is designed and built by Marell Boats Sweden AB, based on the east coast of Sweden. The company is founded by Patrik Söderholm, who brought a vast experience of aluminium boat building into the company. That included also a wide network of professional marine operators around the world, a network that led Patrik to Svalbard , where the first outline drawings of the new silent sightseeing boat Kvitbjörn was laid out together with Hurtigrutens adventure manager Tore Hoem.

The arctic silence inspired them to a tour boat that would take them to the walruses and to the polar bears without scaring them and to the ice bergs with disturbing the natural wildlife when coming closer. Both had a special relation to Svalbard which was carefully transferred into the new boat design, they both now what they wanted and the question was if the market was ready for it. Patrik, as a keen hunter of northern lights and Tore, a man from Svalbard, used to be confronted by Polar bear, decide early that they should go for electric but with a plan b including a combustion engine for longer journeys, a true electric hybrid boat

Early they discovered that Volvo Penta, a cooperating partner with Marell Boats for testing out new drivelines, was in position to launch their first electric hybrid system, but first wanted to test it out in harsh environment under real operational conditions. Knowing the great performance of the M15 unique aluminium hull from earlier projects, it was easy for Marell, Volvo Penta and Hurtigruten to now join forces and jointly develop this extra ordinary tour boat, that could go fast to the sightseeing spots and  operate at a silent mode at low speed, for over an hour, to come closer to the wild walruses and other native animals on the Svalbard Islands.

This state-of-the-art Marell M15 tour boat project was successfully launched at the start of the boating season in Svalbard, in crispy cold and sunny weather in May, with the white Spitsbergen mountain islands surrounding the fjords of Svalbard. Tourist was taken out for a spectacular experience, unique to the polar regions and unique for any tourist location, with magical nature awaiting out on the fjords. Imaging cruising along the iceberg, visit a majestic glacier front, spotting some hunting polar bear and finally come close to the walruses, with a completely silent propulsion using the electric motor in the Volvo Penta hybrid drive train.

Kvitbjörn is in her right environment and as you might have spotted already, Kvitbjörn is the Norwegian name for polar bear, a suitable name for a tour boat in the most northern populated region on earth, named by her owner Hurtigruten Svalbard. The new technology of electric propulsion has reached the wilderness of the north, for protecting the environment with both lower exhaust emissions and lower sound emissions, which makes the Marell M15 Tour boat Kvitbjörn nominated to one of the most significant boats of the year 2022, by Work Boat Magazine.

Photos by Hurtigruten Svalbard & Cato Salter