Cruise lines scrambled this past weekend to deal with a strike by 42 port pilots in Oslo, Norway. The labor action by state employees caused multiple cruise ships to bypass Oslo. Lines adapted itineraries, sailed to alternative ports and some operated motorcoach excursions to Oslo.
More ominously, though, the strike appears to be broadening – bad news at the outset of the peak Norwegian coastal sailing season.
Cruise Industry News (www.cruiseindustrynews.com/cruise-news/7332-norway-all-pilot-services-may-be-suspended.html) reports that the pilots’ strike action could spread by May 30 to other areas of Norway.
In an update today, the Norwegian Coastal Administration site (www.kystverket.no/en) indicated that’s happening. It said the labor action soon will broaden to 103 pilot boat skippers, “affecting a big part of the country’s maritime services.”
The listing of affected ports - if that broader strike occurs - includes Tromso, Alesund and Kirkenes, just to name a few.
Most cruise ships are required to use local pilots on approach to ports. The pilots know local sea conditions and are aware of any navigation obstacles. Experienced pilots essentially “drive” ships into port, helping to assure a safe passage.
With the pilots out of action on Sunday, Holland America Line’s (www.hollandamerica.com) Rotterdam bypassed Oslo and docked at Sandefjord, 70 miles from the Norwegian capital. Holland America said in a statement that it operated all its Oslo excursions with motorcoaches transporting guests to the Norwegian capital city.
Other ships that have altered itineraries over the past few days to avoid Oslo include Emerald Princess and Star Clippers’ Star Flyer. Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas also avoided Oslo and instead called at Gothenburg, Sweden.
However, Hurtigruten (www.hurtigruten.com), a small ship operator that sails the Norwegian fjords throughout the year, is apparently unaffected by the pilot labor action. Pilots aren’t required on its Norwegian voyages because the line’s captains are highly familiar with the local coastal waters.
But for the other cruise operators, a widening of the strike zone could mean additional shifts in itineraries. Ships set to call at Oslo early this week include Costa Fortuna, MSC Poesia and both Emerald Princess and Vision of the Seas yet again.
Stay tuned to www.travelagentcentral.com for further updates to this developing story.