First X-Bow Cruise Ship Prepares for Maiden Voyage

Image courtesy Aurora Expeditions

Published Oct 31, 2019 12:52 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Ulstein X-Bow, the iconic wave-piercing bow design for offshore and specialty vessels, is making its debut in an expedition cruise ship.

The Greg Mortimer, the first Chinese-built expedition cruise ship, has arrived in Argentina and is preparing to make her maiden voyage to Antarctica. She is the first in a series of ten for Florida shipowner SunStone Ships, the first vessel of her kind with an X-Bow and the first dedicated vessel for longtime cruise organizer Aurora Expeditions. Her hull incorporates the patented bow design in order to improve her seakeeping performance, which will be useful for the Antarctic market: the 120-passenger ship will be making regular crossings of the Drake Passage between Cape Horn and the South Shetland Islands, an area well-known for heavy seas. 

According to Aurora, the X-Bow will make the voyage easier for the Mortimer's passengers by reducing slamming and wave-induced vibrations. The foreship has a wave-piercing shape above the waterline, so it rises less when it hits a wave and falls less on the other side. Expected operational benefits include lower acceleration levels, lower pitch response, less spray on deck, lower speed loss and lower fuel consumption in heavy weather. About 100 vessels with X-Bow designs are in operation or construction today, according to Ulstein, primarily in the offshore sector. 

“Being an offshore specialist means that the vessels we design must be robust and handle very tough weather in some of the world’s harshest ocean areas," said Tore Ulstein, deputy CEO and COO Design & Solutions at Ulstein Group. "When Ulstein turned to the cruise industry, the cruise ship owners immediately saw the potential. The Greg Mortimer’is the first cruise vessel with the X-BOW feature, but there are now several others under construction in China and Norway.” 

On the Mortimer's delivery voyage from the China Merchants Heavy Industry (CMHI) yard to her home port of Ushuaia, Argentina, the X-Bow performed as promised, according to Captain Ulf-Peter Lindstrøm. Even in 25-30 foot waves, she maintained a steady speed of 12-13 knots, just one knot less than her normal cruising speed. 

“It’s a totally different experience! In big seas, I kept waiting for the slamming, but it never came. You don’t feel the sea, you have to relearn how to interpret the vessel behaviour. Other ships can only keep half the speed,” said Capt. Lindstrøm, a 40-year veteran of the shipping industry. 

Several sister ships for SunStone are under construction now at CMHI. Ulstein is also building two X-Bow polar expedition cruise ships for Lindblad Expeditions, with hull construction at the CRIST yard in Gdynia, Poland and outfitting at the Ulstein Verft yard in Norway.