On a cool and misty western Norwegian morning, Captain Harry Mellingen-Haugland eases Mastrafjord around the sea wall and slowly brings the ferry into dock. Despite its size, the 130m vessel appears agile and is surprisingly quiet, doing little to disrupt the calm waters of Boknafjord. From the ferry’s bridge, Mellingen-Haugland has a 360-degree view of the stretch of water he crosses tens of time a day.
This article was originally published by Wired.
Named after another nearby fjord, Mastrafjord shuttles between the tiny ports of Mortavika and Arsvågen. The 11km crossing takes around 20 minutes, with up to three ferries in operation at any time. Millions of people make the journey, which helps link the picturesque west coast cities of Stavanger and Bergen, every year.
“It’s the second busiest ferry route in Norway – in terms of vehicles and pedestrians,” says Mellingen-Haugland, surveying the view from his captain’s chair.
“In the winter months it’s mostly people who live and work in the area, and heavy transport. But during summer time it’s very much people on holiday in the fjords.”
Efforts have been made in the area to use liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a fuel instead of diesel. Mastrafjord, and its sister ships Stavangerfjord and Boknafjord were designed to run on LNG to reduce sulphur and NOx emissions, and other particulates.
So, what is LNG? Liquefied natural gas is a clear, colourless, non-toxic liquid, which forms when natural gas – mostly methane, with other alkanes, including ethane and propane, and carbon dioxide – is cooled to -162ºC. This LNG process shrinks the volume of the gas by 600 times, making it easier to store and transport to markets around the world – either by pipeline, truck or shipping.