Vard has secured a new Nkr2.7bn ($322.8m) contract to design and construct one polar expedition cruise vessel for French company Ponant.

The electric hybrid cruise icebreaker features LNG propulsion and was developed by Ponant, Stirling Design International, Aker Arctic and Vard.

It is designed to carry passengers to a variety of polar destinations such as the true geographic North Pole, the Weddell Sea, the Ross Sea and Peter I Island.

"This is a really exciting project for us, and we look forward to building the Ponant icebreaker for polar expedition voyages."

The new electric hybrid cruise icebreaker is equipped with dual fuel propulsion systems and features high-capacity batteries and LNG storage on-board.

It will also be fitted with two helicopters in in-house hangars.

The Ponant icebreaker will weigh approximately 30,000 gross tonnes and is set to measure roughly 150m-long and 28m-wide.

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The vessel will possess a cruise speed of 15k in open water and be capable of accommodating 270 passengers in 135 staterooms, in addition to a crew of 180 personnel.

Vard CEO and executive director Roy Reite said: “This is a really exciting project for us, and we look forward to building the Ponant icebreaker for polar expedition voyages.

“Vard has a deep experience in icebreaking technology; over generations, we have built several highly advanced vessels developed for operations in polar areas.”

The hull will be built at Vard Tulcea in Romania, while delivery of the completed vessel in scheduled from Vard Søviknes in Norway in the second quarter of 2021.

Vard is also constructing four luxury expedition cruise vessels for Ponant as part of a separate development.

The first vessel in the series is planned to be delivered in the second quarter of next year, followed by the handover of the final three units between 2018 and 2019.