Turnaround operations are predicted to be the future of cruise traffic to Northern Norway and Spitsbergen. There is a demand from passengers for shorter cruises and the cruise lines wish to reduce fuel consumption and offer new itineraries and destinations. This is a win-win situation.
CNNS: Erik Joachimsen
It is estimated that the Northern European cruise market will grow by 8-10 percent annually, and that passenger numbers will double by 2023. New and larger cruise ships will bring greater volumes of guests for each call, and the cruise lines will need to look for new destinations to satisfy the curiosity of repeat customers.
The North Cape is a very attractive destination for many, and is a “once in a lifetime” experience for cruise passengers. More than 80,000 passengers disembark and visit the North Cape Hall each year. This cruise traffic accounts for 35 percent of the total traffic to this outpost.
FLY AND CRUISE
Although the cruise traffic to Norway and Northern Norway has increased in recent years, Northern Norway lost market shares due to stronger growth further south. “Implementing turnaround operations in Northern Norway will be an important strategic move to recapture market shares, as well as create new traffic into a region that has many exciting elements to offer,” says Managing Director of Cruise Northern Norway and Svalbard, Erik Joachimsen.
There is a great potential for calling at ports east of North Cape, such as Vardø and Kirkenes on the Norwegian side and Murmansk and Arkhangelsk on the Russian side. By sailing out of the Norwegian customs zone, the cruise lines will avert the cabotage laws and at the same time create an opening with new sailing patterns and exciting new products for the passengers. Svalbard is also outside the Norwegian customs zone, even though technically the archipelago is subject to the Kingdom of Norway. Consequently, cruises to Longyearbyen are an attractive destination for cruise lines that wish to implement turnaround operations in mainland Norway.
Honningsvåg, where all transit calls occur, is 35 km from the North Cape Plateau and 166 km from one of the world’s largest airports in the northern hemisphere, Lakselv Airport Banak (see illustration). The biggest passenger aircraft can land at this airport and, as there is generally a low level of activity here, there is significant capacity available for larger operations.
It is in the axis North Cape, Honningsvåg and Lakselv Airport (see map page 16) that the project North Cape Turnaround Port saw the light of day in 2012. It is based on the infrastructure that already exists in the region, as well as the investment opportunities that are available. Lakselv is a favourable place to implement cruise & fly combinations, when “half the journey” is complete passengers have experienced the North Cape. This means that after calling at Honningsvåg, the cruise ships sail into the Porsangerfjord to implement the turnaround operation as close as possible to Lakselv Airport Banak. The driving time between the port and airport is just 10 minutes.
PULLMANTUR IN 2015
The first booking for a turnaround operation here has already been received. The Spanish cruise line Pullmantur will sail from Malmo and up to the North Cape throughout the summer of 2015. The cruise line has good experience with similar operations in Trondheim in 2012 and 2013. The cruise ship “MS Empress” will implement three such operations in Bodø and two in Lakselv in 2015.
“Norway offers one of the most beautiful landscapes and shore excursion opportunities in the world,” said the Vice President of Pullmantur, Eduardo López-Puertas, during Cruise Norway’s summit. He added that the shore excursions in Western Norway were rated extremely highly by the passengers.
“MS Empress”, with a capacity of 2,020 passengers, will make history in 2015 when it becomes by far the largest cruise ship to complete a turnaround operation north of the Arctic Circle. “The distance between the airport and the port in Bodø is extremely short. It is actually within walking distance,” says Port Director Ingvar M. Mathisen of the Port of Bodø. “Bodø also has an extremely broad shorex offer and good hotel capacity.”
European Cruise Service will oversee the process, ensuring that Bodø and Lakselv deliver in terms of both shorex and land transport. Bodø already has most of what is required to handle MS Empress. Much of the remaining work will involve arranging sufficient guides and coaches and also putting the minor details in place. “The Port of Bodø and all our local partners are very enthusiastic about achieving this and our ambition is to exceed the expectations of both Pullmantur and European Cruise Services,” concludes Mathisen.
North Cape Turnaround Port in Lakselv wishes to invest in a so-called SeaWalk in order to develop satisfactory infrastructure (see separate article). This would be a modified version that can handle luggage as well as the passengers.
However, some are asking themselves why the facilities in Honningsvåg near the North Cape are not used for turnaround operations.
“The reason is simple,” says the Marketing Manager of NCTP Hege Jernsletten. “It’s all about logistics. By localising the SeaWalk at Lakselv, the coaches will have a 10-minute drive to and from the airport, enabling us to run an extremely efficient shuttle service. If we were to drive to and from Honningsvåg, a distance of 166 km, we would require a significant number of coaches and guides.”
The challenge for Lakselv is to create a sufficient shorex program for the region, and there is a lot on which to base this. As well as the North Cape, Sami culture, coastal culture, fisheries and the local history are relevant themes for shorex products. The critical point now is to order the SeaWalk by June so Pullmantur’s voyages in 2015 may be implemented on the basis of the new turnaround port in Lakselv.
“The success of the project depends on us having the facilities in place prior to the 2015 season, so we can handle the cruise ship, passengers and luggage in line with the project requirements. We will manage this,” concludes Jernsletten.
A Walk on the Sea:
Turnaround port in the land of the Midnight Sun
A turnaround port for cruise ships is a solution where the combination of a port and airport allows the passengers on a cruise ship to be switched. The passengers who disembark from the cruise ship are flown home, while the new passengers are flown in via the nearby airport. A turnaround operation involving around 2000 passengers may be implemented in 10 to 14 hours.
The Municipality of Porsanger and the North Cape Regional Port Authority have since 2012 been working to establish a turnaround port for cruise ships in Lakselv. The aim is to make possible a w
In order to realize the turnaround port by the summer of 2015, North Cape Turnaround Port AS (NCTP) has now been established. NCTP will own and operate the dock solution SeaWalk and in time other infrastructure in Hamnbukt in Lakselv.
The Spanish cruise line Pullmantur has booked two calls in June 2015. The goal is to have the quay and infrastructure ready for the first scheduled arrival in early June 2015.