North Sea Ferries - Sign Me Up.

Once upon a time, long long ago, there were lots of ferries across the North Sea from the UK to Scandinavia.

It used to be possible to get a ferry from Newcastle to Bergen or Stavanger in Norway. It used to be possible to get a ferry from the Shetland Islands to Bergen (or in the other direction to either the Faroe Islands or Iceland).  It was even possible get a ferry from Leith, outside Edinburgh to Oslo, and (albeit briefly) between Aberdeen and Bergen, although both of these were longer ago than I can remember!

MV Norrona, very close to Shetland
The Shetland Island service stopped in 2007, although frustratingly you can still often see the ferry as it passes close to Shetland, pausing occasionally for just long enough to allow a medical evacuation by helicopter to Lerwick Hospital but not to pick up or deposit paying passengers.  The ferry from Newcastle ran for many years, I first used it in 1972 and most recently in 2004, until the plugs were pulled on the service in 2008.

Heading to Bergen, 2004 version
As the gannet flies it’s about 230 miles from my house on Shetland to Bergen.

Won't take me long to get to Bergen. You?
Getting my car from the Shetland front door to Bergen, involves at least one ferry to mainland Scotland, then either an 2000 mile drive via the Channel tunnel, up through Germany, Denmark and Sweden before a final drive across Norway or a variety of ferries across the southern end of the North Sea and the mouth of the Baltic, and still needing to drive most of the 2000 miles.

I was therefore delighted to see an announcement recently that there just might be a return for the Newcastle to Bergen/Stavanger service.  Norwegian Seaways are talking, it appears very seriously, about putting this route back into service in early 2014.

I would be even more delighted to see the Shetland Islands properly back on the shipping routes. Historically Shetland has been at the centre of trade across the North Sea, and further west too.  The issue of better communications with places like Norway and the Faroe Islands do periodically make it up the political agenda, but rarely with any visible outcome.

At the moment there are no regular ferries from Shetland to anywhere other than Orkney and Aberdeen, and only a very seasonal weekly flight from Sumburgh to Bergen to complement the regular flights to Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow.  The only way that Shetland can be called well-connected is entirely virtual – the SHEFA-2 undersea communications link from the Faroe Island to mainland Scotland, briefly comes up for air on Shetland.

I would be first in line to book a berth on a ferry from Lerwick to almost anywhere but in the absence of that I'm already looking forward to being on the Norwegian Seaways service from Newcastle.

When do bookings open?


Anonymous said...

I don't know if you have heard, but a company called Norwegian Seaways are planning for a reestablishment of the ferry link between Newcastle and Stavanger and Bergen in Norway.

They are still missing some funding and desperately needing investors, but if all go well they can be up and running in april 2014 (as it is the plan).

Ross Mackenzie said...

It was the Norwegian Seaways announcement that prompted the post - although I gather they are backing off a bit now, and saying maybe sometime in 2014.

Anonymous said...

Not really!

In fact, they are holding a meeting in Aberdeen on Thursday this week to discuss further plans. Route plans are also being presented at just now.

Ross Mackenzie said...

Excellent news. I'll be first in line when they start taking bookings.