The Polarfront, a former icebreaker of the Norwegian Meteorological Institute transformed into a polar motoryacht by two French sailors, is undergoing a technical stopover for five weeks at the Port of Concarneau, Shipbuilding and Repair. Interview with Yann Le Bellec, captain of the Polarfront and founder of the company Latitude Blanche.

A polar expedition ship…

Built in 1976 in Norway, this meteorological ship has carried out several scientific missions for the Norwegian government for nearly 40 years. The Polarfront is built to face the extreme cold of the polar regions in all seas and all weathers. In 2017, the ship changes owners and missions! The Polarfront has been converted into a polar power yacht and offers voyages to the Far North. “This boat was a true gem, it has always been very well maintained, her state was perfect, she offers large living spaces and on more than that she is very elegant at sea and this is something our passengers like” says Yann Le Bellec. Equipped with a reinforced hull for navigation in ice, this 55-meter long vessel can accommodate 12 passengers in addition to the 10 crew members and guides on board… 

… In the Port of Concarneau, Shipbuilding and Repair 

Since the creation of our company, we are committed to carrying out all our technical stopovers in France. The yacht sails in the Arctic, but when we need to carry out work or supplies, she systematically returns to France every year. Until now, we have stayed as far north as possible in Boulogne-sur-Mer or Calais, but this year we made the choice to equip the vessel with a new diesel-electric propulsion system, which brought us here to the Port of Concarneau.”

This new propulsion system is being implemented by Piriou Naval Services, based in Concarneau. PNS is also involving other local companies, including Barillec Marine, an integrator of electric and hybrid propulsion systems. This first five-week technical stopover in Concarneau is an opportunity for the teams to get to know the ship, to prepare her, and to anticipate the upcoming propulsion conversion, which will take place in December. “The crews are moving around a lot, they are coming on board, meetings are being held with the various suppliers, etc. Of course, it’s a long way for them to come here from Norway, but it was a real advantage to have the ship close to the shipyard, as close as possible to the contractors in charge of this project. This investment is important for our company, we had to make it easier for the teams to get their hands on the ship 9 months before the works“.  

Reducing its environmental impact as well as increasing safety and comfort on board the ship are the main reasons why Yann Le Bellec decided to equip Polarfront with a diesel-electric engine. “This change is expected to reduce fuel consumption by at least 40% and to be neutral, or at least very low, in fine particle emissions. These new engines will also allow to stop vibrations coming from underwater which can have an impact on the marine environment. Our convictions and our commitments lead us to optimize the ship’s equipment while making our passengers aware of environmental issues through the discovery of the poles and discussions with our wildlife guides during talks on specific topics“.

Currently docked at the Quai Pétrolier, the Polarfront will be moved to the dry dock until the end of its technical stop and then leave in mid-March for the Norwegian fjords. The vessel will come back to Concarneau in December 2023 for several months in order to start the work and carry out the renewal of the Motor Yacht’s propulsion. 

The Carenco teams are also working closely with the ship’s owners to ensure the dry docking and availability of facilities and tools during the technical stop. Other polar yachts have already made stopovers in Concarneau in the past. Thanks to its maritime ecosystem and the quality of its services and equipment, the Port of Concarneau, shipbuilding and repairs, hosts both Breton passenger ships and polar yachts used to the extreme low temperatures!

That’s what Concarneau is all about: diversity, skills, and passionate men and women!