A classic vessel that has traversed the Arctic Circle more than 3,500 times and sailed along the Norwegian coastline for nearly six decades is set to become a training ship. The news comes at a time when the demise of many older cruise ships is being hastened by the pandemic and are as a result being scrapped as they are no longer commercially viable.
Instead, Hurtigruten’s (www.hurtigruten.co.uk) 400-passenger MS Lofoten, which was launched in 1964 and still runs on her original engine, will be used to educate future generations of mariners and may also embark on a farewell sailing season.
Known as the ‘Queen of the Coast’, MS Lofoten is due to welcome her first class of students from Sorlandet’s Maritime High School in August 2021. The school has trained young seafarers since 1927 and MS Lofoten will be their fifth training ship, where students live, work and practice their skills on board.
Tor Helge Egeland, the school’s director, said:
“There is a growing demand for skilled seafarers, especially those with a background from training ships. The acquisition of MS Lofoten is an important step forward for us. She is a true gem that deserves to be well looked after.”
Several former Hurtigruten ships currently serve, or have served, as maritime training ships and Hurtigruten Group CEO, Daniel Skjeldam, said:
“MS Lofoten is a special ship with a very rich history and a unique atmosphere. She is very special to many of us in Hurtigruten, to our guests and her crew. She has served us extremely well, and I am delighted to see her start her new life as a training ship.”
Apart from occasional expedition cruises to destinations such as Svalbard and the British Isles, MS Lofoten has primarily sailed on Hurtigruten’s Bergen to Kirkenes round-trip scheduled service along the Norwegian coast. Subject to COVID-19 restrictions being lifted, Hurtigruten is considering offering nostalgic farewell Norwegian coastal voyages on the vessel in spring 2021.
Since her launch MS Lofoten has crossed the Arctic Circle more than 3,500 times and travelled a distance equivalent to more than 200 times around the Equator. The vessel is still powered by the original Burmeister & Wain diesel engine that has clocked up more than 330,000 running hours.
Hurtigruten dates back to 1893 when it began operating a daily year-round passenger and freight service for local Norwegians and delivering goods to otherwise inaccessible towns and villages. It was originally set up by the country’s government to improve communications along the uneven coastline. In more recent times it has evolved into an expedition cruise line offering explorer cruises around Norway and to destinations including Antarctica, Alaska or the Arctic islands. Its fleet of vessels includes a pair of new purpose-built eco-friendly vessels, MS Roald Amundsen and MS Fridtjof Nansen, which feature environmentally sustainable hybrid technology.
Known as the ‘River Cruise Queen’, Jeannine Williamson is an award-winning travel writer, cruise expert and our cruise correspondent, who has clocked up thousands of nautical miles.
Photographs courtesy of Hurtigruten