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Calls for revival of ferry route 18 Apr 2010

What do you do when you're stuck because air traffic is grounded; trains are fully booked and the only ferry route from Norway to the North East closed in 2008 due to competition from the very airlines now grounded?

An enterprising travel agency in Stavanger has the answer by chartering the MS Gann to bring 49 frustrated travellers back to Newcastle, thereby proving just how easy it is to re-open the sea route to Norway - if only for a weekend!

The past eighteen hours have been one of intense team effort to achieve successful customer satisfaction.

Late on Friday (16th April), Captain Michael Nicholson, the Port of Tyne's Harbour Master, received a call from the Master of the MS Gann, based in Stavanger, Norway, asking if he could bring his ship into the Tyne the next day.

"To receive a request at such short notice and so late in the day, I initially assumed the ship must be a relatively small pleasure vessel" explains Mike Nicholson "however the MS Gann is over 100 metres long and the Master wanted to set sail that evening. I advised him not to leave until I had been able to confirm that arrangements could be made to accommodate a vessel of this size and the necessary agencies available given the fact he was carrying passengers."

Fergus Poole, the port's Cruise and International Passenger Terminal Manager, was in London when contacted yesterday evening and he immediately telephoned David Briggs, UK Operations Manager -of Global Cruise Services (UK) Ltd who also, as it happened, was on holiday but came back into the office as he felt as strongly as the Port of Tyne that everything should be done to enable the MS Gann to come into port.

"Given the short notice of this request, and the fact that Port of Tyne received it late on Friday (potentially too late to arrange anything)", says David Briggs "meant we had to wait till Saturday before getting confirmation from the border agencies". Overall it has taken around 18 hours to put arrangements in place whereas normally we would get 18 or more weeks notice of such a visit. The Master is delighted at the way everyone has pulled out all the stops to make his request a reality. I have the highest regard for the way everyone at the Port of Tyne has worked to make this happen." The MS Gann's arrived on schedule at 09.15 hrs this morning.

"This is partnership working at its best" says Steven Harrison, the Port of Tyne's Chief Operating Officer, " We have an excellent relationship with David Briggs of Global Cruise Services and the teams both at the Harbour Office and our passenger terminal have worked hard with David to make this happen."

With the aim of creating a vibrant and sustainable Port of Tyne, the port has been working hard during the past eighteen months to bring together the necessary agencies to explore ways in which to re-open the route to Norway.

Steven Harrison says: "Until September 2008, there had been a direct route to Norway from North Shields by sea for over one hundred years. This route has been closed for eighteen months, yet it has taken only eighteen hours to re-open it, even if it is for just one weekend, by an enterprising Norwegian travel agency. There is no doubt that air travel is quicker but look at the results when it is no longer an option. Maritime transport has not stopped because of volcanic dust and if there is a lesson to be learned from the past three days it is that it is imperative to provide both tourists and business travellers with a second route to Norway from the region - by sea."

The MS Gann was formerly the MS Narvick, part of the Hurtigruten fleet of ferries serving the communities along the Norwegian coast. Re-named the MS Gann, she has been rebuilt and is used as a winter training school for Sea Cadets and a cruise ship in the summer to help finance the running of the school. She has 310 berths and can accommodate 40 cars and has a maximum capacity for 500 passengers. She was carrying 49 passengers, 39 sea cadets and 27 crew into the Tyne and she left on time at 12.00 noon carrying 92 passengers back to Norway.

 

For further information please contact:

Lisa Donohoe, Port of Tyne Assistant Marketing & Communications Manager
Tel: 07912 390 777 Email: lisa.donohoe@portoftyne.co.uk

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