Mário Ferreira, president & CEO of Mystic Invest and its subsidiary, Douro Azul, announced the groundbreaking investment at Seatrade Europe in Hamburg on Wednesday.
Ferreira told a river cruise conference session the improvement in battery technology—toward smaller, less expensive units—has now made the realisation of an electrically driven river vessel possible. He said the ship will carry 126 passengers and 40 crew.
It is tailored for zero-emission operations on Portugal's Douro and will be connected to the shoreside electrical supply during its stops along the river for battery recharging. Ferreira added that, apart from West Sea, a number of other international partners are involved with the project. Further details about these partners and the new vessel in general will be announced shortly.
The development is a major step forward in the river cruise industry's sustainability efforts.
Experts debated future propulsion schemes during the Seatrade Europe session, describing electric propulsion as the clear way forward while LNG was not an option for river vessels due to the massive space requirements for storage tanks as well as regulatory constraints.
Many industry experts, though, believe it will take a number of years before battery technology is developed enough to allow the economically viable construction of a fully electrical river vessel. Douro Azul will thus take an important pioneering step.