Norway Strikes Update: European Cruise Lines Concerned Over Impacts of Norway Strikes

June 1, 2012
Balmoral (11:30 a.m. EDT) -- A group representing a number of European cruise lines has expressed concern at the financial impact of the pilot strikes in Norway which closed Oslo Fjord Port and have since spread to ports along the west coast of the country including Tromsø and Alesund.

In a statement, the European Cruise Council said via its Chairman Manfredi Lefebvre d'Ovidio that, "the effect of the industrial action is being felt immediately in loss of revenues to the ports and communities that cruise ships visit both in terms of loss of services and of passenger spending ashore." The group expressed concern that strikes during the summer season -- the high season for Norway cruises -- would have long-term consequences, eroding "the attractiveness of Norway as a cruise destination."

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines announced an itinerary change to Balmoral's Norwegian Fjords voyage, which departed Southampton May 30, and two of Royal Caribbean's ships -- Vision of the Seas and Brilliance of the Seas -- have also altered course.

P&O Cruises's Adonia, Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas, MSC Cruises' Magnifica and two Holland America Line ships -- Eurodam and Rotterdam -- are all due in at Tromsø or Alesund in the next week.

All the lines have confirmed they are putting contingency plans in place should the strikes continue.

The strikes began in Oslo on May 24, after wage negotiations between the state and three pilot unions broke down, according to Norwegian Coast Guard Web site Kystverket.

All visiting ships are required to have a pilot, who typically has years of experience of local conditions, onboard for the approach to port.

With all 42 of the Port of Oslo's pilots on strike, a number of cruise ships were turned away or forced to cancel calls.

These include Emerald Princess, which was forced to turn away from the port last Friday, Star Clippers' Star Flyer which cancelled a call on Saturday and Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas which was diverted to Gothenburg on Sunday.

However, in an e-mail to Cruise Critic, Cruise Sorlandet's managing director Belinda Thorkildsen Sousa said the port of Kristiansand is still open for business and is actively encouraging ships to call there. Cruise Sorlandet is the official cruise network for Southern Norway ports. The Kristiansand port has grown significantly in the past few years and may eventually rival Oslo as it is on the sea, rather than a long way down a fjord. Though the pilot boat skippers are on strike in Kristiansand, cruise ships can pick up a pilot in an adjacent port -- where pilots are still available -- and carry the pilot to Kristiansand. As of this update no ship has yet requested pilot service from the two available ports in order to visit Kristiansand.

The only company immune to the strike action is Hurtigruten, which sails between Bergen and Kirkenes; because its captains sail the coastal waters every day, year-round, the ships are not required to carry a pilot.

Itinerary Changes and Compensation

On a revised itinerary, Balmoral will sail to Kiel Canal, Warnemunde, Copenhagen, Gothenburg, will be at sea on June 4, visit Zeebrugge June 5 and return to Southampton on June 6. Fred. Olsen is calling the situation a 'Force Majeure' -- meaning it is unavoidable and frees the line from any liability for compensation. The line, however, will be refunding the cost of missed shore excursions and attempting to arrange options at the new ports on the itinerary.

No word of compensation has come from Royal Caribbean, though two of its ships have been affected by the strikes. Vision of the Seas will conclude its sailing in Gothenburg, Sweden, forgoing the scheduled return to Oslo, on Saturday, June 2. Brilliance of the Seas called on Bergen, Norway, will spend Friday at sea and conclude its sailing in Amsterdam on Saturday, June 2, as scheduled.

Cruise Critic will continue to update this story as events unfold.

--by Adam Coulter, Senior Editor, U.K., and Jamey Bergman, Web Content Editor, U.K.