Holland Norway Lines was declared bankrupt this morning, just under eighteen months after the start of its ferry service. Things moved quickly after the company asked for payments to be suspended last Wednesday 30 August. An administrator was appointed the same day as required under Dutch law.
The charter for Holland Norway’s only ferry, ROMANTIKA, was then terminated early by owner Tallink on Friday 1 September. The ship had been chartered from the Estonian company for three years. ROMANTIKA has been tied up at Emden since Wednesday’s announcement. Tallink is said to be making preparations to return the ship to her Estonian home waters.
Holland Norway Lines suspended services indefinitely last Wednesday. However, the company did not cancel all bookings last week, saying that it may sail again, nor did it issue refunds. Disrupted passengers were advised to claim on their travel insurance or contact their credit card provider for refunds. The company was also criticised by a consumer rights organisation for not offering affected passengers alternative travel as required by EU law.
The Holland Norway Lines service launched with a blaze of publicity in The Netherlands and Norway, with the first sailing from Eemshaven to Kristiansand taking place on 7 April 2022. Some in the industry questioned the company’s choice of vessel, the Baltic cruiseferry ROMANTIKA, however, due to its running costs and lack of vehicle capacity onboard versus other North Sea ferries. Whilst the concept of a route between the two regions is widely regarded as having merit, most industry sources suggest a RoPax vessel has a much greater chance of success.
From Holland to Germany
The company made it through its first year but things quickly started to fall apart. While Holland Norway had announced ambitious future plans to build a bespoke cruise ferry, problems had been bubbling under the surface. The company had failed to secure priority access the the quay at Eemshaven past the start of 2023, leading to cancellations of the service. There had also been problems in Kristiansand, with Holland Norway often having to load and discharge its vessel around the schedule of Fjord Line’s FJORD FSTR sailings.
During March 2023, Holland Norway Lines announced that the service would temporarily move from Eemshaven to Cuxhaven, near Hamburg in Germany, while a new terminal in Emden, also in Germany, was prepared. On 1 June, the first sailing took place from Emden. The ship also visited the Felison Terminal at IJmuiden for berthing trials on 27 March 2023. The company wished to use the port, normally used by the DFDS service to Newcastle, as a back-up prior to moving to Emden.
The company has partially blamed the additional costs incurred from the port move for its financial difficulties, but it is understood that winter was very tough on Holland Norway’s financial position. Industry sources have also highlighted poor supplier contracts, excessive crewing costs, and inefficient non-standard ferry industry practices.
Holland Norway Lines says that it carried nearly 400,000 passengers since the operation started just over 18 months ago. The company directly and indirectly employed almost 400 people in The Netherlands, Norway, and onboard the ship.