Norway’s deeply troubled coastal shipping line Hurtigruten has already cut service from 11 to just two ships sailing between Bergen in the south and Kirkenes in the north. Now the state transport ministry is cutting the route further, to only serve ports between Kirkenes and Bodø, meaning there won’t be any calls at 13 ports between Bodø and Bergen.
“This is absolutely crazy,” moaned the harbour chief at Ørnes on the Helgeland coast south of Bodø. Ørnes and all other ports farther south won’t have any Hurtigruten ship calls from October 24.
Transport Minister Knut Arild Hareide noted how travel restrictions tied to the Corona virus have wiped out large portions of Hurtigruten’s revenues, not least after Hurtigruten itself got into trouble after Corona outbreaks on board some of its cruises that were operated in addition to its coastal route.
Hareide claimed that Hurtigruten is most needed north of Bodø, where many small ports rely on the service for transport of both cargo and people. “The season we’re heading into, with increased risk of winter-closed roads, increases the need for more calls between Bodø and Kirkenes,” Hareide said. Running the two ships over a shorter distance will increase port calls where they’re most neeeded, he reasoned.
The company had initially cut service from 11 to five ships, then to two. Disappointed harbour masters between Bodø and Bergen now risk having to lay off harbour personnel and fear long-lasting effects of the reduced service.