New member: Longyearbyen
Longyearbyen has a population of 2,200 and is situated at 78 degrees North on the island of Spitsbergen in Svalbard. Not surprisingly this Arctic wonder has been given a sustainable destination quality label from Innovation Norway.
It is in the enviable position of having more homeport than transit calls, being extremely popular with expedition ships. However this is a place where numbers are on the up in both sectors. This year alone Pullmantur calls for the first time with Zenith (July 15), MSC Cruises brings MSC Meraviglia for the first time on three calls and Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ Europa 2 makes a maiden visit.
In 2017 calls numbered 320 bringing about 53,614 passengers. Of these 290 (13,500) were turnarounds from expedition ships. This year 352 and 62,000 respectively are estimated with expedition accounting for 320 and 16,000 passengers.
In terms of future bookings, all calls (overseas and expedition, transit and turnaround) are listed on http://portlongyear.no/arrivals/. Svalbard Cruise Network (SCN) manager Eva-Britt Kornfeldt comments: “We have ambitions to use the Cruise Norway port calendar, but we have not prioritised this yet.”
The network was established in 2015 and has 32 local members with a common goal to develop and market Longyearbyen and Isfjorden as “the most attractive and unique cruise destination in the Arctic”.
Domestic airlines, SAS and Norwegian, operate regular flights to Longyearbyen. Charter flights are also operated in connection with the expedition cruises, such as Oceanwide Expeditions, Polar Quest, Hurtigruten, National Geographic, Quark Expeditions, One Ocean, G Adventures and Ponant, which use Longyearbyen for turnaround operations from March to October. Air to shore side luggage facilities with declaration of security (DoS) are available.
Visit Svalbard has been working to get regular international flights into Longyearbyen Airport but Kornfeldt explains that so far this has not been possible due to regulations. The airport is a domestic airport with regular flights from SAS and Norwegian to Oslo and Tromso.
“We are working with the airline companies to adjust the flight departures from Oslo in order to avoid extra nights in Oslo on the way up and down,” explains Kornfeldt.
At present ships up to 335mm can come alongside at the Bykaia pier which measures 82m in length and has a depth of 9m Bollards are installed at either end. There are also anchorages, with no size restrictions, 400-800m from the tender pier which is located next to Bykaia.
A new floating pier with a terminal building for passenger traffic located about 1km from the town centre is included in the National Transport Plan 2018-2029. This pier will be 120m long and 35m wide. It will provide a total length of pier of more than 300m. It will be possible to dock at both ends, and there will be room for a small boat dock at the rear.
The project is currently priced at NKr 260m (€27.2m) and has to be financed by the state. A thousand square meters of buildings will also be built at the new floating pier, 650m2 for offices and trade and 350m2 for public areas. These will include all the usual terminal amenities such as cafe, tourist desk, toilets and wifi.
At present a temporary terminal is in either at the harbour or in town for the season (March to October).
A fenced ISPS-area with guard at the entrance is in place at the quay with camera surveillance of all areas close to the vessel. There is an ISPS tender pier for vessels at anchor. In terms of waste there are no limitations on cardboard, plastic and sorted burnable waste but wet waste cannot be accommodated. Buses are able to park 50m from the gangway. Rental cars and taxis can be ordered.
Svalbard has developed a destination master plan towards 2025 with the vision being to be the leading High Arctic destination in the international tourism market. Sustainable tourism is a vital component in this and Longyearbyen strives continuously to improve its sustainability status. Companies within the destination are encouraged to work on environmental certification with a number already certified.
Slow cruising Isfjorden is a concept being marketed which allows passengers to take part in activities such as dog sledding on wheels as well visiting places such as Kapp Schoulz in Tempeljorden, a cultrual heritage site about trappers.
When it comes to shore excursions, there are six local tour operators in SCN which are active when cruise vessels call: Basecamp Spitsbergen; Hurtigruten Svalbard; Spitzbergen Adventures; Svalbard Husky; Svalbard Wildlife Expeditions; Svalbard Adventure Group and Trust Arcticugol.
Trips range from the Isfjord bird safari (to view some of the thousands of migratory birds returning in the summer to breed in the mountains) to dog-sledding to fat biking (12 cm tyres) to fossil hunting where it is possible to find 60-million-year-old plant fossils.
Originally a coal-mining town in the early 1900s, visitors can now experience how it was to be a miner deep underground in Longyearbyen. The ghost town of former Russian city, Pyradmiden, as it was left in 1998 can be visited as can Tempelfjord and Billefjord where an array of cultural relics from trapping settlements, expeditions and mining as well as rich flora and fauna can be found.
In the town itself are the Svalbard and North Pole Expedition museums, Galleri Svalbard, the WildPhoto Gallery, Svalbard Kirke, Kunsthall Svalbard - the northern Norway art museum which tours exhibitions - and painter Olaf Storo who has a studio by the sea.
Svalbard is a dutyfree zone making a range of goods including souvenirs, outdoor clothing and equipment as well as alcohol, tobacco an attractive activity. It is also home to the northernmost breweries in the world and Polar Permaculture giving an insight into Arctic farming.