Ferris's Baltic Sea
Traditionally the Baltic Sea is an area vessels type Ro-Ro as well as passenger ferry services since more than 50 years. With increasing interests of travelers in mobility, tourism and especially duty-free shopping ferry shipping grew over decades till the European legislation cancelled all special duty-free arrangements after July 1, 1999. Just before this date the absolute peak of passengers aboard ferries in the Baltic Sea was reached with around 135 million travelers, about 49 million cars, 260,000 buses, nearly 4 million trailers carried on more than 3.2 million trips. This includes all short trips to and from Danish islands internally, down-wards south to Germany as well as eastwards to Sweden. Roughly one third of this traffic floats between Finland and Sweden, another third from Danish main islands around Copenhagen in all directions and the rest mainly north-south from Norway/Sweden to Central-Europe.
As alcohol and tobacco was always very expensive in all Scandinavia due to relatively high consumer taxes, duty-free shopping was and still is of great interest especially in this region. Until July 1, 1999, there existed a kind of ''wining and dining'' culture onboard: people having to celebrate a party with, let us say, 50-100 guests were pleased to go onboard the ferries and having their party during sailing from one destination to the other. But this very interesting business of all operators diminished radically after July 1, 1999 and is strongly influenced today by low-cost airlines.
So, most operators realized their main income in cargo/trailer transport, especially all the year around, and converted their ferries in this direction. Another influence came from the high-speed side, but this required much more power, and consequently fuel consumption increased too. As long as fuel was relatively cheap, costs did not matter too much, but when energy prices jumped up in 10-30 % steps within the last two years, various thoughts were initiated in order to reduce costs.
By the year 2004, within the Baltic Sea region close to 187 million passengers, just over 65 million cars, around 382,000 buses and more than 6.6 million trailers were counted on a little bit more than 3.7 million trips.
It shows that comparatively larger increases were on the rolling cargo side instead of passengers. This might be, especially on the passenger's side, due to fixed bridge links over the Great Belt and later Oresund.
CRUISE-FERRY COLOR FANTASY and COLOR MAGIC
Last year a new luxury cruise-ferry concept was installed by Color Line on their traditional postal route Oslo-Kiel. The innovative ferry Color Fantasy (tonnage 75,027 GT) and 2,770 passengers) was built by Aker Finnyards. Besides various new design aspects an inside promenade was arranged similar to the one on ferry Silja Serenade and Silja Symphony (tonnage 58,376 GT and 2,670 passengers) the first two ships using this novelty more than a decade ago. Both at that time very innovative ferries came into service in 1990 and 1991 years and revolutionized the market. The inside promenade was accepted by the fire safety authorities only after a quite extensive an two decks high water sprinkler fire fighting installation along this arcade was arranged.
cruise-ferry COLOR FANTASY
cruise-ferry COLOR MAGIC
promenade on board Color Magic
In the end of 2004 Color Line took over the world’s largest cruise ferry Color Fantasy from Aker Finnyards in Turku, Finland. This new ship is classified by Det Norske Veritas as a cruise ship equipped with car decks. It represents a completely new category, combining attractive offers of high passenger comfort of a cruise ship with transport capacity for cars, buses and even trailers. The upper car deck also qualifies as exhibition area. Cruise ferry Color Fantasy has been so well accepted all the year round that it became over-booked most days of 2005 year. This encouraged Color Line to change the option for a sister-ship into a firm contract.
Between Oslo and Kiel as well as in opposite direction 609,565 German passengers alone have been transported within 2005 what is an increase of nearly 26 % compared to 483,810 passengers in 2004. Counting all nationalities a passenger increase of 50 % was realized in 2005. But the Oslo-Kiel route took also traffic figures from the lines connecting Norway with Danish Jutland. Putting all figures together there remained still an increase of 5.27 % on the passengers bringing these figures to totally 4,433 million guests. Other lines sailing to and from Norway mainly south profited from this transport too.
COLOR LINE SUPERSPEED
In the middle of December 2005, Color Line concluded a long awaited agreement with Aker Finnyards for the construction of two new fast ferries for delivery in 2007 and 2008. These ships represent completely new and forward looking transport solutions and will operate between southern Norway and northern tip of Denmark in a new concept entitled Color Line Superspeed. Both contracts are valued at near EUR 252 million. In the time ahead, Color Line will be investing massively in new cruise and transport concepts.
With the ''Superspeed'' concept, Color Line enters a new era in the traditional sea-borne traffic between Norway and mainly Denmark. These new ships will both increase accessibility and will shorten the travelling time from Norway to the rest of Europe. ''Superspeed'' is ships of the future which will carry a large number of passengers, cars and freight quickly and efficiently to and from Norway to and from the continent.
cruise ship SUPERSPEED
The new ships were put into service on the Kristiansand-Hirtshals route in December 2007 and on the Larvik-Hirtshals service in April 2008. The vessels have each a length of 211 m and were able to accept a 2 km long line of trailers in addition to 1,800 passengers. The crossing between Kristiansand and Hrtshals were taken three hours and fifteen minutes and between Larvik and Hrtshals three hours and forty-five minutes. Size and speed of these ships thus represents an enormous increase in capacity between Norway and Denmark.
Hirtshals is a key port for Color Line and an efficient link-up with the European motorway network. A four-lane motorway to this port was opened in 2004. Both, Norway and the EU have clearly stated more than once, that the answer to Europe’s future transport requirements must be found in the transfer of freight ''From Road to Sea'', what clearly means to shift transport by trucks and trailers on roads to sea-borne and rail transport. In recent years e.g. the freight volume transported by Color Line ships has increased by near 10 % annually. The some new ferries had not cabins for passengers but some for truck drivers. So, they were mainly used as day-ferries and will therefore represent a major growth potential for the land-based tourist industries in Norway and Denmark.
During recent years roughly up to 80 million tourists have been travelling by car and ferries or bridges/tunnels over the Baltic Sea every year. Although fixed links and short sea transportation (less than one hour) are absorbing the main quantities there remain some big centers of passengers exchanges in the eastern part of the Baltic Sea, especially in the triangle Finland-Sweden-Estonia (17 million passengers), and to a much smaller extend (5 million passengers) in the western part of the Baltic Sea in north-south direction from Norway/Sweden to Denmark/Germany.
cruise-ferry SILJA SERENADE
cruise-ferry SILJA SYMPHONY
Due to longer travelling times of more than 12 hours and stronger interest in duty-free as well as ''wining and dining'' ferry shipping in very luxury style has a much larger ex-tend in the Finland-Sweden-Estonia triangle than all other destinations. On top of this all connections with travelling times up to six hours in normal speed of around 20 kn could be brought to better effectiveness by higher speeds of up to 40 kn. But higher speeds re-quire much more power and consequently extensile fuel consumption. Also in wintertime and rough seas super-speeds are difficult to hold. This is one of the reasons why ship operators are changing their mind now to more flexible ferries: fast enough to sail in all sea conditions with maximum loads, and not too fast in order to minimize operation costs with less load or only passengers. So, a new race of investments has just started between the various competing shipping companies.
Originally Swedish/Finnish Silja Line has always been number 1 in the ever existing competition between mainly Silja and Viking Line. Although innovative designs gave Silja a lot of marketing advantages over their competitors, the cancellation of all duty-free benefits after July 1, 1999, created heavy headaches to the shipping company with following losses. The up to that date Scandinavian investors sold their interests to foreign Sea Containers Group.
Without any real investments into the necessary infrastructure, Silja Line was left ailing while its Estonian competitor Tallink came on the scene. But also Viking Line, competitor from days of foundation, realized their chance of increasing their market shares. After months of negligence Silja Line arranged at least some necessary refurbishing of their extraordinary ferries Silja Serenade and Silja Symphony.
Anyhow, Tallink has identified the need to build new ships and once having changed their focus beyond the cruise/shopping business on the Helsinki-Tallin route; they are Tallink now a leader, setting contemporary ferry trends. Before the cost of Estonian crewing rises to the same level as for the existing competitors, their ambitions are far-reaching, including a possible acquisition of Silja Line. All gambling around the value of Silja Line has to come an end sooner or later an end. Anyhow the recently placed contracts or letters of intent of especially Tallink and Viking show that both are preparing their own ways of expansion already.