Construction Starts on Chile’s First Hybrid-Electric Antarctic Cruise Ship

hybrid electric cruise ship
Magellan Dsicoverer which is beginning construction will be hybrid-electric and propelled by pods (ASENAV)

Published Feb 16, 2024 5:14 PM by The Maritime Executive


Construction has begun in Chile at ASENAV shipyard on a unique exploration cruise ship which is being built as the first hybrid-electric propulsion cruise ship with Azipods to be built in the Americas. Due to be delivered in 2026, the cruise ship named Magellan Discoverer is specifically designed to operate in Antarctica.

“In terms of maritime engineering, this cruise ship will once again place Chile at the forefront in both R&D and sustainable tourism, as it reduces emissions and improves energy conditions to achieve a low impact on the White Continent,” said ASEENAV during the steel cutting ceremony on February 8 in Valdivia, Chile.

The Magellan Discoverer expands on the shipyard’s earlier construction Magellan Explorer delivered in 2019. Both cruise ships are marketed by a tour company in Chile called Antarctica21. The company pioneered a unique offering where passengers are flown to King George Island. The Air-Sea approach avoids the crossing of the notorious Drake Passage, although the cruise ships are fitted with stabilizers designed specifically to handle rough waters such as the Drake. 

The new 6,700 gross ton Magellan Discoverer will feature a hybrid-electric propulsion system with two MAN main engines and gensets. Propulsion will be with ABB Azipod units and the vessel will have an energy storage system with a battery bank developed by Corvus Energy. The operator highlights that this will provide a smoother and quieter operation.

The ship is designed to maximize its energy performance and reduce its environmental impact. For example, the elevators will be fitted with a system that captures energy from braking which will be fed to the battery pack in addition to the more widely employed waste heat recovery system. All the hydraulic equipment will use biodegradable oil and the ship’s system will employ eco-friendly coolants.

The cruise ship will be 308 feet (94 meters) in length. It will comply with the rules for a Polar PC6 ice class specifications and meet Tier III emission standards. It has a maximum capacity of 96 passengers, however, during the air-sea cruises it is limited to 76 passengers and a maximum of 67 crew. 

Both of the ships demonstrate the emerging trend of adding luxury to the traditional exploration cruise market. The new Magellan Discoverer with have 40 passenger cabins, including suites, deluxe cabins, and single occupancy all with private balconies. There will be a total of six passenger decks and spaces including a dining area, meeting, rooms, observation bar, gym and sauna, and a unique wet science lab. The design also features a bow observation area.

The ship’s first Antarctic program is scheduled to start in December 2026.