Hurtigruten will not be sole operator for the first time since 1893, giving way to newcomer Havila.
Norway has changed the ferry operators sailing to its coastal ports for the first time since companies that later became known as Hurtigruten began running the service in 1893.
The Norwegian Ministry of Transportation and Communications has decided to split the service starting from 2021 through to 2030 between Hurtigruten and newcomer Havila.
Hurtigruten will continue to operate seven ships on the route up and down the country, while Havila promises to build four new ships to participate in the business.
The total of 11 ships will sail year-round between Bergen in the south and Kirkenes in the far north close to the border with Russia, with departures every day and taking in 34 ports, Cruise Industry News reports.
As previously reported, the government wanted to award the subsidised contract – which currently amounts to NOK 788 million (€82.4 million) a year – to more than one company in order to encourage more competitive services and pricing.
Negotiations with the ministry had been tough, said Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam, with the final decision being dependent on price, as well as on stricter environmental compliance.
Other interested parties pulled out before negotiations even began, Skjeldam said in a statement.
Not much time
Now the Fosnavaag-based Havila – a supplier to the offshore industry with 23 vessels – will have to build four new ships, which could be powered by a hybrid system including LNG and batteries.
A 30-month window is not a great deal of time to build and launch four ships, Cruise Industry News comments.
Hurtigruten, meanwhile, has committed modernising its existing ships. It will also sail its three biggest vessels Trollfjord, Midnatsol and Finnmarken as cruises between Bergen and Kirkenes for international passengers and not locals.