The Norwegian Ministry of Transportation and Communications has decided to split the coastal steamer route between Bergen and Kirkenes between two actors. Hurtigruten will have 7 out of 11 ships, whereas Havila will operate four ships.
Minister of Transportation and Communications, Ketil Solvik-Olsen, at a press conference stressed the coastal steamer’s crucial importance for people and business along the Norwegian coast, and argues that it contains both nostalgia and national romantics.
- This combination of important transportation of people and goods as well as tourism is a good package deal for us, Solvik-Olsen said. He also emphasized that the state’s role as principal in this contract applies to people and goods along the coast, not to tourism.
- We have had prolonged and good negotiations with the tenderers, Solvik-Olsen said. He was happy that Hurtigruten will continue operating, and says the new operator Havila’s entering into one contract will be exciting in terms of dynamics. This may provide a better service and better experiences, the Minister argued.
He also stressed the importance of stability in this service; that there is a corresponding ship arriving twice every day, and that strict environmental requirements apply to the ships operating along the route.
- It is challenging, but manageable. Both tenderers bring LNG vessels. Havila brings in four new ships, whereas Hurtigruten will remodel 7 existing ships to make them operate on LNG.
Good port hosts important
Transportation Minister Ketil Solvik-Olsen also said it is important for the state that all 34 ports are good hosts for the coastal steamer. All port owners will be invited to a joint meeting with the Ministry of Transportation, during which they will be informed about what is needed and required.
- That cooperation is important, and it is vital that everything is clear beforehand.
- Hurtigruten will sail from Bergen to Kirkenes every day, including on those days that we do not have the contract, says Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam.
- We have given a lot
- We at Hurtigruten are thrilled that we will continue supplying services along the coast, just like we have done for the past 125 years. We have given a lot during the negotiations in order to establish a contract with the State, says Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam.
- Negotiations have tough and on-going since January. The Ministry of Transportation has put leverage on us and price has trumped many things. Most competitors withdrew from the negotiations even before they started, as they did not consider the coastal steamer route profitable. The price, new requirements and the splitting of the route will have consequences for our operations. We will now take some time to evaluate exactly what that will mean, says Skjeldam.
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