Service Cuts and Layoffs as Norwegian Ferries Manage Restrictions

cutback and layoffs as Norwegian ferries address travel restrictions
Stavangerfjord leaving Langesund on an earlier sailing - Thomas Oestberg-Jacobsen photo courtesy of Fjord Line

Published Oct 20, 2020 4:12 PM by The Maritime Executive

Travel restrictions and the economic impact of the pandemic are continuing to take their toll on the Scandinavian ferry system. Two of the lines operating from Norway, Color Line and Fjord Line, each announced further significant cutbacks in service which will result in layoffs among their employees.

Starting next week, Norway’s Fjord Line plans to suspend all sailings from Bergen and Langesund in Norway to Denmark. The company will also be laying up one of its ships, the Stavangerfjord, and expects that these restrictions will remain in place until 2021. Operations will be limited to one ship sailing between Kristiansand in Norway and Hirtshals in Denmark focusing on cargo with passengers limited under the travel restrictions due to COVID-19. Passengers traveling on the ship will be required to undergo a 10-day quarantine when they arrive at their destination. 

Calls in Stavanger, Norway are also being limited to two times per week, at least till the end of 2020. These port calls are in part necessitated by the availability of LNG, which the ship uses as its fuel.

Fjord Line has been struggling to manage its operations in the face of dramatic declines in passenger traffic due in part to the travel restrictions. In September the company had said it was being forced to layoff up to 200 employees in an effort to lower its cost of operations. A month later, however, Fjord Line announced further cost-cutting moves would increase the number to 300 employees impacted by their efforts. In addition, the company’s CEO, Rickard Ternblom, agreed with the board to resign effective immediately. 

Confronted with similar challenges in the market, Color Line also announced plans to reduce capacity on its Oslo, Norway to Keil, Germany route. Starting on November 4, the line will limit sailings to one ship, the Color Magic, while its sister ship the Color Fantasy will be laid up “until the infection situation and government regulations are changed,” Color Line said in its announcement. The travel restrictions contributed to a strong decline in the line’s passenger traffic and recently passengers were limited to round-trip cruises boarding and disembarking only in Oslo. Color Line said it will continue to offer this cruise option on the one vessel sailing between Norway and Germany.

Color Line announced that the essential freight traffic between Oslo and Kiel will be transported on the Color Magic and the cargo ship Color Carrier. The line will also carry freight between Hirtshals in Denmark and Larvik and Kristiansand in Norway aboard its vessels SuperSpeed 1 and 2. However, the line also plans to reduce the number of daily departures on these routes.

"Reduction of capacity is unfortunately once again necessary, and it is crucial that the government and the Stortinget provide compensation schemes both this autumn and for next year," said Color Line CEO Trond Kleivdal in announcing the latest changes in the company’s operations. 

Removing the Color Fantasy from service, the company said, will mean that another 400 employees will temporarily be laid off. These layoffs are in addition to approximately 600 people that Color Line had previously furloughed. The Norwegian media are also reporting that the line plans a restructuring which will eliminate up to 300 positions permanently.

With the impact of these efforts expected to last well into 2021, the Norwegian Shipowners Association has begun to call on the government to include the passenger ferry operators in planned compensation schemes designed to support the hard-hit tourism industry.