Eksfin nears NOK 10 billion in loan financing for green ship projects

Source: press release, 2 September 2021

‘Le Commandant Charcot’ in a polar environment (photo: PONANT/Nicolas Dubreuil)
‘Le Commandant Charcot’ in a polar environment (photo: PONANT/Nicolas Dubreuil)

Norwegian export credit agency Eksfin (formerly Export Credit Norway and GIEK) is playing a major role in accelerating the “green shift” at sea, providing loan guarantees approaching EUR 1 billion for the construction of 35 eco-friendly vessels over the last 4 years – including Le Commandant Charcot, the world’s most exclusive polar exploration cruise ship recently delivered to French cruise line PONANT by Norwegian shipbuilder VARD.

Milestone figure
“Our job at Eksfin is to promote Norwegian exports globally and boost the financial capacity of Norwegian industry. In the shipping space we are helping shipowners, shipyards and equipment sub-suppliers to finance an increasing number of vessels featuring alternative fuels or new technologies that reduce harmful emissions. We are now close to the milestone figure of NOK 10 billion and will continue to pursue projects with a strong environmental profile reflecting the industry trend towards more sustainable operations,” says Eksfin CEO Tone Lunde Bakker.

The delivery from VARD Søviknes of Le Commandant Charcot serves to highlight Eksfin’s decisive role in financing such projects. VARD won the PONANT contract thanks in part to Eksfin’s state-backed loan and risk guarantees.

“I am very proud of Eksfin’s involvement in securing this project for one of Norway’s top maritime exporters. Our export financing package was important in influencing the shipowner’s choice amid fierce competition between shipbuilders in Finland, German and Norway,” says Lunde Bakker.

Marseille-based PONANT contributed a significant amount of the contract position from its own resources, with Eksfin providing the outstanding monies in cooperation with French banks. The Eksfin loan amounted to EUR 162.4 million, with risk guarantees totalling an even higher EUR 182.7 million.

“PONANT aims at proposing purposeful and sustainable luxury experience abord small ships. ‘Le Commandant Charcot’ is the latest and the most iconic member of our fleet with an ultra-luxurious vessel sailing in never-yet-cruised destinations with unique environmental features. Eksfin’s efficient assistance together with our lenders helped to make this extraordinary ship a reality,” says PONANT CFO Alexis Blavette.

Eksfin earlier contributed to the financing of six expedition cruise ships also built by VARD for PONANT, but this seventh ship is unique and, as the world’s first hybrid-electric, LNG-powered vessel with icebreaking capacity, the first ever of its type.

“The delivery of Le Commandant Charcot and its superior environmental credentials reinforces Norway’s position as a leading producer of high-value, high-end vessels and technology. It is a great example of how we can work together with exporters and financial institutions to facilitate winning bids,” says Lunde Bakker.

Environmentally friendly technology
PONANT estimates that using LNG will reduce emissions of sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and carbon dioxide (CO2) by 95%, 85% and 25%, respectively, compared to conventional cruise ships. ‘Le Commandant Charcot’ is also designed for optimal energy efficiency and minimal footprint using innovative systems engineered by VARD’s specialised business units. The ship’s comprehensive electrical solution features state-of-the-art battery technology from Norway’s Corvus Energy.

“Clean Ship” classification
PONANT will deploy the 245-passenger ship on polar cruises to the Arctic and Antarctica. Shipping activity in these highly remote areas is subject to strict regulation. In line with PONANT’s strong emphasis on environmental considerations across its activities, Le Commandant Charcot has been certified by French classification society Bureau Veritas not only with PC2 polar ice class, but also with ‘Clean Ship’ and ‘Comfort Class’ status thanks to cutting-edge technologies that reduce not only environmental impact but also noise and vibration while ensuring the highest level of safety.

Le Commandant Charcot is also equipped with research facilities that will enable the scientific community to study and analyse water, air, ice and biological diversity at the extreme poles. It will access some of the world’s remotest spots including the Geographic North Pole (90 degrees north), Northeast Greenland National Park and the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic and the Bellingshausen Sea, Peter I and Charcot Islands and the Larsen Ice Shelf in Antarctica.

Blazing green trail
Other Norwegian companies made use of Eksfin’s financing for green ship projects including Hurtigruten for hybrid cruiseships; ferry operators Norled, Boreal and Fjord1 for diesel-electric, hydrogen-electric and fully electric ferries; Color Line for what is the world’s largest hybrid cruise-ferry; fishing company Cetus for onshore power connection; and tanker operator Altera Shuttle Tanker for LNG-powered tankers with volatile compound (VOC) emissions recovery.

“Our new Eksfin structure makes it much easier and simpler for shipping customers and exporters to access advisory services and state-backed financing for complex projects. As a trusted partner with a streamlined approach and minimal red tape, our triple-A rated financial instruments available at competitive rates are invaluable in securing contracts in a demanding market. We’re also proud to be working with forward-leaning stakeholders spearheading the move towards greener shipping of the future,” says Lunde Bakker.