Ambassador Jørn Gjelstad on electric ferries and passenger boats

In Norway, like in Greece, emissions from the coastal transport sector is a significant one, which is why my country has given this sector priority when it comes to finding solutions that can reduce emissions.


Your Excellency Minister Santorinios
Esteemed guests
Ladies and gentlemen.

I am both honored and privileged to address you today by introducing the theme of this Conference: How can we get rid of emissions from maritime vessels and thereby transforming maritime sector to a driver for the green shift.
Please let me first present five observations:

First, we all know that climate change and environmental degradation is accelerating. The green shift has become a matter of global urgency. We have to reduce emissions - significantly. Under the Paris accord, the EU committed itself to “at least” 40% by 2030. Norway shares this target.

The latest report (IPCC Special Report on Global Warming) from the UN Climate Panel published last week concludes that this is not enough. We have to be even more ambitious if we are to limit global warming to 1,5 degrees Celsius.  The recommendation is clear as it is sobering: we need a major build up of renewable energy and a rapid transformation of our energy mix. We have to cut down on the use of fossil energy sources with more than 50% if we are to meet the challenge in due time. Sustainability is no longer a preference or a choice, it is a must. We have to think about what we can do. And in this context, we also have to think what the maritime sector can do.


Second, we also know that technological shifts driven by new concepts and innovation happen faster than ever. This opens up for new measures to deal with unprecedented challenges. I am happy to see that green shift in many countries attract a growing business interest, thus making a partnership between investment capital and green technology possible. 

Third, we need politicians no only to lead but also to catch up. And we need politics to enable the technological and industrial development to combat climate change. The cost of postponing action far exceeds the cost of acting now.

Fourth, we must decouple carbon emissions from the concept of low-growth. In other words: the transformation of our energy systems and the adaption to a low-carbon economy is not an impediment to economic growth and prosperity. It is becoming more and more a prerequisite. While the growth in carbon emissions has almost stalled, the world economy has been growing by almost three percent pr year.

And fifth, we need a broadly concerted effort if significant achievements are to happen. The Government, private sector, relevant business companies, technological institutions, researchers, the civil society, the NGOs and youth organizations can and should all take part in a unified drive forward. We must enable, respect and protect those who will carry us towards an low-emission not to say an emission-free future.


In Norway, like in Greece, emissions from the coastal transport sector is a significant one. My country has given this sector a particular priority when it comes to finding solutions to reducing emissions.

In Greece many professionals have approached me and expressed their curiosity about the electrification of ferries and passenger boats that Norwegian companies have developed through the last years.
This Conference is a direct response to this growing interest.

Today I can present to you representatives from two of the shipyards concerned, being the producer of respectively the first electric ferry and the first electric cruising boat for passengers. Their work is inspiring to us all, and demonstrates that even small shipyards in very small, remote villages in Norway can make a difference and develop innovative ideas and cutting-edge technology.

Norway and Greece have possibilities and challenges that mirror each other. We are to nations with a deep connection to the sea that informs our lives. We have the fjords, you have the islands. Norway receives thousands of visitors every year wanting to enjoy the breathtaking sights of our western coast. For centuries, the fjords have served as important routes for trade and cultural exchanges between our communities. Today, this remains very much the case with 115 ferry connections linking our coast together.

To ensure that these fjords and coastal routes remain attractive, while meeting our climate commitments, we have taken several steps to move forward. In 2000, we started to use a car-transporting ferry running on Liquid Natural Gas. We were also the first to use a battery driven ferry in 2015, and if everything goes according to plan, we will be the first country to use a ferry running on hydrogen in 2021. Additionally, we have recently adopted a zero emission vision for our fjords. In April this year, our Parliament adopted bill that will require all vessels to be electrified, to the extent possible, by 2026. This is a very ambitious goal, however set out in a close dialogue with the industry itself.

Perhaps our politicians have been emboldened by the success form the car sector. Norway has set 2025 as the target date for all new cars to have zero emission technology installed. As we can see with the car sector, long term planning, subsidies and incentives do play a central role for a transformative change.  We can also see that it works. The mentality in our population has gradually changed. 1/3 of all new veichles sold in Norway today are electric. Last month, almost half, or more precisely 45,3 per cent, of all sold cars were electric, I guess this must be a new world record.

To get back to coastal transportation. Norway has learnt many things in the process of electrifying our first maritime vessels. One of these lessons is that we need to work together.
To bring about a transformative change entire sectors have to collaborate. That’s when you can achieve quick and impressive results. We are very happy to have gathered her today a wide range of stakeholders– authorities from the Ministries of Shipping, Environment and Education, ship-owners, ferry-and- passenger-boat-companies, shipyards, suppliers and investors. I would also like to mention the UN Sustainable Development Network for Greece.

We need drivers of change with bold visions, willing to engage with other professionals for the same cause, and by doing so making the difference we all need. We need initiatives that can connect the local level with our global efforts, and also translate global initiatives to a local context for the purpose of making them relevant with immediate effect.  

I hope to see sustained efforts taken by both Norwegian and Greek professional in the time to come, to share competences, experiences and some common goals.  I am also pleased to inform that Norway has a funding opportunity related to this area I Greece. As we launch the first Business and Innovation Programme of the EEA grants later this year, funds will be made available for projects within the areas of Green Industry, Blue Growth and ICT. If someone can develop a good proposal for electrification of coastal vessels, this will be eligible for financial support, however within certain allocation limits. I will encourage everyone interested to approach the Embassy for more information on this.

As I am coming towards the end of my short introduction, I would like underline that there are great opportunities within this area soon to be dicussed. Countries like Greece and Norway, being depend on the sea for natural resources as well as tourism, have a special role and obligation in ensuring long term sustainability of not only our maritime industries but also the environment that surrounds us. This, not out of pure idealism, but out of a rational understanding of what is our self-interest.

The speakers we have with us tonight have all a unique insights into the different kinds of processes that have taken place in Norway to cut emissions. They have first hand experience in what I takes to translating these vessels from concept to operation, how it can be commercialized in a cost effective way, and what the next steps might be. I will leave the floor to them, I will thank you all very much for your attention.

To sum up this introduction in a condensed way:
The Secret of Change Is to Focus All of Your Energy, Not on Fighting the Old, But on Building the New. And I guess, this is exactly what we have to do.
Let me now hand over to Alternate Minister of Shipping, Mr. Nektarios Santorinios.