A startup Norwegian company has announced plans to launch a regular car, passenger and cargo ferry link between the U.K. and the west coast of Norway.
The news is sure to be received with joy by the thousands of campaigners who have kept up calls for a direct ferry service to be reinstated across the North Sea since the last one closed in 2008.
Tentatively set to launch in 2026, the route will run between both Bergen and Stavanger on the west coast of Norway and Newcastle on England’s northeast coast. The company plans three weekly departures in high season and two weekly departures during the rest of the year.
If it launches to schedule, the ferry will be the first direct non-cargo sea transport between the two countries in 18 years.
In 1978 MS Winston Churchill started operating a twice-weekly sailing from Newcastle to Gothenburg. In 1981 a route from Newcastle to Oslo began, as operated by MS England. By 1994, MS King of Scandinavia was purchased by the company Color Line, renamed MS Color Viking, and entered service between Newcastle, Stavanger, Bergen and Haugesund. After several years the company sold the Norway-to-UK route along with the vessel to Norwegian ferry operator Fjord Line.
In 1998 Fjord Line renamed the vessel to MS Jupiter. Elsewhere on the North Sea network, two existing DFDS services were merged, the route between Harwich and Gothenburg, Sweden, with that of Newcastle to Gothenburg. The combined new route formed a singular passage travelling directly from Gothenburg to Newcastle via Kristiansand, Norway.
For a number of years Fjord Line continued to successfully operate the Newcastle to Norway ferry route.
In September 2006 DFDS purchased MS Fjord Norway from Fjord Line. This move allowed the company to own two sister ships, MS Fjord Norway and MS King of Scandinavia. The addition to the fleet underwent a refurbishment and name change before being re-deployed between Stavanger, Haugesund, Bergen and Newcastle. Meanwhile, the company announced the closure of their Gothenburg to Kristiansand and Newcastle route on 1 November 2006; this allowed their existing asset MS Princess of Scandinavia to be sold off and pushed the market toward their new operating route.
In May 2007 MS Princess of Norway was relieved of the Newcastle, Stavanger, Haugesund and Bergen service, to be taken over by MS Queen of Scandinavia. This allowed DFDS to operate their vessel MS Princess of Norway with her sister ship MS King of Scandinavia on the Amsterdam to Newcastle service.
The service was operated by one passenger cruise ferry which offered overnight cabin accommodations, as well as automobile and freight transport. The ferry operated year-round across the North Sea and was usually an overnight sailing. In the summer the service was mostly tailored to the tourist market, and the timetable altered to reflect extra sailings where possible.
However, on 1 September 2008 DFDS shut down their United Kingdom to Norway service, citing the route as a loss with no ambition for a route relaunch in the future. MS Queen of Scandinavia made her final sailing on 18 September 2008.
The loss of service cost 350 persons their jobs, including 270 jobs on MS Queen of Scandinavia and a further 70 employees in both the UK, Denmark and Norway, dealing a blow to both economies on both sides of the North Sea and leading to an annual £10 million hit to the North East economy.
Prior to the route’s closure, the director of tourism for Bergen, Norway stated “The British market has been the biggest for us for the last five or six years, with about 200,000 visitors every summer.”