Hurtigruten barred from Frans Joseph Land

Hurtigruten Frans Joseph LandMs Spitsbergen is one of Hurtigruten's cruise ships, designed for the Arctic. Photo: Hurtigruten.

Hurtigruten disallowed sailing to Frans Joseph Land in Russia

Hurtigruten is denied sailing permits in Russian waters. The shipping company must, therefore, cancel two planned cruise trips to Frans Joseph Land. Frans Joseph Land is a Russian archipelago northeast of Svalbard.

“Hurtigruten received the message just weeks before «MS Spitsbergen» was scheduled to embark on the 15-day cruise from Tromsø to Frans Joseph Land, via the north-western city of Murmansk in Russia,” writes Klassekampen.

The shipping company has had a fruitful dialogue with both local and central Russian authorities for a long time, according to itself.

“Hurtigruten cancels two trips with a total of 250 passengers, as the Russian authorities, very surprisingly, refused our application for a sailing permit,” Head of Communications of Hurtigruten, Anne Marit Bjørnflaten, tells Klassekampen.

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She states that the ship meets all the requirements of the polar code and is allowed to sail in these areas of the Arctic. Hurtigruten has been informed that there will be a Russian naval exercise in the area at the same time as the relevant cruises. This appears from the rejection of the sailing permits.

“The dialogue has been good. We, therefore, are left flat-footed by the decision by the Russians. Especially as Russia has, for several years, signalled that it will facilitate for increased cruise traffic in general, and for Hurtigruten in particular, in the northern regions of Russian waters.”

Customers who have purchased tickets to the cruises, costing around NOK 58,000 a pop, are contacted and will be offered compensation.

Increased military activity

Frans Joseph Land plays a stronger strategic role In recent years. The Russian defence forces have built an airbase and deployed various air defence systems there. According to the website Aldri Mer (Never Again), 150 soldiers are currently stationed at Camp Nagurskoye, but that number will increase.

A base is also being built on Victoria Island which is between Svalbard and Frans Josef Land. This will be a helicopter base with at least twelve men and air defence.

Facts about «MS Spitsbergen»

  • Year built: 2009
  • Year of refurbishment: 2016
  • Shipyard: Estaleiro Navais de Viana do Castelo (POR)
  • Passenger capacity: 335
  • Beds: 243
  • Car capacity: 0
  • Gross tonnage: 7,344
  • Length: 100.54m
  • Beam: 18m
  • Cruise speed: 14.5 knots

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