Dead Fish Will Soon Be Powering Norwegian Cruise Ships

Can cruise ships be powered by dead fish?. Sebastian We/Flickr

In an effort to create more environmentally-friendly vacations, Norwegian cruise operator Hurtigruten is instituting a plan to power its ships using ... dead fish, reports

No, this doesn't mean that Norwegian cruise liners will be doubling as commercial fishing vessels; the dead fish will come from Norway's prolific fishing industry, not as any sort of byproduct of the cruise industry. But it's an ambitious plan that promises to make use of the leftovers and off-cuts of the fishing industry to make shipping less wasteful.

So how does dead fish get transformed into fuel? Organic waste of any kind can be mixed to produce a type of fuel known as biogas, which is mostly an amalgam of methane and carbon dioxide. If it sounds stinky, well ... it is, and not just because of the dead fish. Biogas can also have small amounts of hydrogen sulphide, which can give it a rotten egg smell.

It's not a particularly glamorous process, but don't worry: those smells won't be excreted from your cruise ship's exhaust. The raw materials in the biogas can be purified, which creates liquid biogas.

"What others see as a problem, we see as a resource and a solution," said Daniel Skjeldam, Hurtigruten chief executive. "By introducing biogas as fuel for cruise ships, Hurtigruten will be the first cruise company to power ships with fossil-free fuel."

Biogas is certainly cleaner than heavy oil, but it's not exactly carbon neutral. Carbon dioxide is released when biogas is burned. So while the plan might be a creative way of making use of organic waste, as well as helping to get off of fossil fuels, it's not a perfect solution. Kudos to Hurtigruten for thinking outside of the box, however. It's at least a step in a better direction.

And the proverbial cherry-on-top is that the company will also be banning single-use plastics on its 17 cruise ships.

The effort is not entirely selfless. Norway has recently instituted a zero emissions target by 2026 for cruise ships that are navigating their pristine fjords. Besides, the pristine nature of those fjords is why people travel into them aboard cruise ships to begin with.

But whatever the motivation, it's good to see change happening in a notoriously dirty industry.