Nordnorge (2020)

    The Coronavirus Pandemic was responsible for the cancellation of nearly all cruise ship calls for Norway’s 2020 season. This created a difficult situation for Hurtigruten, the state-subsidized ferry service and luxury cruise line. They restarted their cruising service over the summer but quickly created a nationwide scandal when a COVID-19 outbreak rapidly spread across one of their ships, and in response, the government cancelled all plans made by other cruise lines to restart cruising. Only the small luxury ships Seadream I and Seadream II were able to operate throughout most of the 2020 season, with just over a hundred passengers each. But soon they also suffered a COVID-19 outbreak and had to cancel all remaining sailings in Norway.
    By the autumn, much of Hurtigruten’s fleet was in “warm lay-up” across Norway’s southwestern coastline. Hurtigruten reserved two permanent spots by Bergen’s old fortress, and up to seven ships could be spotted in Bergen’s harbor at once. In December, as part of this record-breaking operation to cram half of their fleet into one city, Nordnorge was moved in front of Bergen’s historical district, Bryggen, on a pier usually occupied by small pleasure craft. Although it is not a large ship by today’s standards, it absolutely swallowed the old buildings which usually sit unobstructed on the harbor.
    I don’t know exactly why this is, but Norway seems to be sheltering cruise ships more than other countries. For instance, there are large fleets of international cruise ships anchored off the coasts of England, Germany, and the Philippines. They occasionally dock, but are not left idling at the pier in those countries for months at a time. The harsh weather conditions of the North Sea make it difficult to leave the ships untethered here, but Norway has accepted more than just Hurtigruten’s local fleet. Iona, P&O Cruise’s newly-built behemoth that was completed during the pandemic, has been moored in Haugesund for months. And Viking Cruises has left one or two ships at a time in Kristiansand, a city on Norway’s southern coast. Viking Cruises has their ocean-going ships registered in Norway and has a unique relationship with the country, but P&O, originally British, is just one of Carnival Corporation’s many subsidiaries.
    As Norway’s ports were making decisions to accept unused cruise traffic, the country continued making larger systemic changes to reverse the environmental damages caused by pollution. During the pandemic, the Port of Bergen completed the installation of a handful of electrical plug-in systems for large vessels. These systems were installed both at the industrial shipping pier, Dokken, and the city’s old harbor, Vågen. A new fleet of electric buses for the city were also left parked at the harbor’s unused bus lot for months before entering service. Hurtigruten claims some ships in its fleet can use biodiesels and connect to shore power systems, but plumes of thick black smoke could be seen eminating from many of their ships throughout the year in Bergen. Even when there is no ongoing cruising, the industry leaves a heavy impact on small cities.