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Scandinavian ports share challenges, solutions as momentum builds for Seatrade Cruise Global

L-R: Inge Tangerås, Barbara Agersnap, Klaus Bondam, Ida Katrina Skaarup, Morten Kusk and Stefan Scheja
Representatives of Port of Aarhus, Copenhagen Malmö Port, Cruise Baltic, Cruise Norway and Ports of Stockholm revealed some of the challenges facing their regions and proposed solutions to minimise their impact.

Opening Sunday's discussion, which took place in Fort Lauderdale a day before the opening of Seatrade Cruise Global, was the new Cruise Baltic Director Klaus Bondam

He told moderator David Selby, MD, Travelyields, that Scandinavia was ‘motivated by the green transition,’ asserting it has a ‘significant role to play’ already being at the forefront of sustainable developments.

Regulatory challenges proposed in Norway

2022 was back to pre-pandemic levels in Norway, with the strongest growth in Northern Norway. But, said Inge Tangerås, CEO, Cruise Norway, there are regulatory challenges to confront, the first being that the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries is developing a proposal which will require cruise ships sailing in Norway to offer its seafarers Norwegian pay and benefits.

A limit on how many ports a cruise ship can call, or a time limit before the law kicks in, would impact calls to Northern Norway and long port calls in the fjords. According to the CEO, this would have ‘rough consequences,’ the impact ‘practically meaning no cruising north of Ålesund or Trondheim’ and being detrimental to local communities who depend on cruise tourism. 

The second is to introduce capacity limits for cruise ships operating in Northern Norway up to Svalbard. One measure proposed is to impose a maximum passenger cap of between 500-750 on vessels sailing to Svalbard. 

The third, to achieve zero emissions in the UNESCO World Heritage-listed fjords by 2026. The Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA) have suggested a 10-year grace period for LNG power ships ‘if they carry an amount of biogas, equal to what will be consumed, sailing in and out of the world heritage site,’ stated Tangerås. 'We have to be prepared that anything can happen… we must not lower our guard,’ he said.

The Norwegian Parliament has on two occasions previously looked to introduce zero emissions in the fjords, ‘believing these kind of rules and regulations drive the technical development to make it happen,’ said Tangerås, who intends to maintain contact with politicians and supply them with information on the consequences of such a move. With the support of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) it has come up with a report addressing these issues.

2023 is predicted to be ‘even stronger’ than last year for Norway, with the strongest growth seen in Northern Norway.

More than 1m passengers were registered in Norwegian waters in 2022.

Three major Norwegian ports have shore power – at Kristiansand, Bergen and Ålesund – and there a number of initiatives in the pipeline to bring the figure up to 10 by 2025.

Baltic region aims to ‘rebrand’

Ida Katrina Skaarup, senior manager, Cruise Baltic is looking to expand its portfolio to include more expedition cruise lines. ‘We have seen increased interest in expedition lines to visit,’ she said, adding that the association will be hosting a ‘small shipping workshop’ to learn more about the sector and satisfying its needs.

Significantly, Skaarup explained the intention to ‘rebrand the region’ by working on a strategy that delivers a new narrative, sharing stories of the various destinations so potential passengers feel greater inclination to visit the Baltic region. ‘Before, it was resting on St. Petersburg bringing everyone here,’ she explained, in reference to cruise lines pulling the highly regarded cruise destination from their itineraries due to the war in Ukraine. Further details of the initiative will be revealed in due course, however, it will focus on destinations’ ‘great diversity, cultures and experiences, and lifestyles.’

Cruise calls in 2023 are forecast to be down on 2019 figures by 21%, with a 9% drop in turnaround calls, but the number of cruise passengers is expected to be higher than in previous years.

There have been notable successes for Karlskrona, Sweden which received just two calls in 2019 and clocked 27 calls this year. Gothenburg, Sweden had 59 calls in 2019 and is expecting 92 calls in 2023, while Skagen, Denmark which had 43 calls in 2019, is expecting 68 calls in 2023.

In the Baltic, there are five ports with shore power, rising to seven ports in the next two years. In 2030, the region will have between 9 and 14 ports providing shore power.

Feeling the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war

Stefan Scheja, manager cruise and ferry, Ports of Stockholm shared Skaarup’s sentiments regarding efforts to rebrand: he explained that prior to the war in Ukraine, Stockholm had been gearing up for 300 cruise calls; now, it expects to receive 128 calls this season having lost the majority of major cruise lines.

Ports of Stockholm is building shore power connection facilities for cruise ships at two city centre quays at Stadsgården. These will be up and running at S167 this year, 2023, and at S160 next year.

Aarhus prepared for shore power switch on

Aarhus is readying for shore power, due to be activated on April 17. The decision was made during the pandemic, and according to Morten Kusk, general manager, Port of Aarhus, has cost seven million euros to implement.

It has been in dialogue with cruise lines on ideas regarding how to build the pricing structure for use of electricity, with a fixed-price through the year proving the most desirable.

Imparting his advice, he described the process of installing the technology at the pier as ‘heavy stuff’ that had ‘not been as pretty’ as expected.

Aarhus had 32 calls in 2019 and is expecting 70 calls in 2023.

Slashing emissions

Copenhagen Malmö Port has a commitment to be carbon-emission free by 2025, said its CEO Barbara Agersnap, noting, 'I'm hoping that we will have production of green fuels in the port.’

Regarding enhancements at terminal four, she said these ‘are not cancelled, just on standby.’

The destination has plans to implement a 32mv shore power facility in Copenhagen by 2025; Agersnap described the current climate as ‘complex’ due to lack of availability of electricity and its price soaring.