Ferry Business - Autumn/Winter 2017

International Cruise & Ferry Review Ferry Business INTERVIEW 82 pace for new cruise ships and ferries at the world’s most popular shipyards has been squeezed by orders from big cruise players, so smaller operators like Viking Line are placing their business with less well-known yards. When it came to ordering a new LNG- powered ro-pax ferry, Viking Line opted to go to Xiamen Shipbuilding Industry (XSI) in China, choosing from around 20 yards in Europe and the Far East. “We want to upgrade the fleet and especially introduce a comparable vessel to Viking Grace on the Turku–Stockholm route between Finland and Sweden, but the new vessel will have a bigger freight capacity to meet market demand,” says Jan Hanses, the line’s chief executive. “The decisive factors for choosing XSI were delivery time and price. The European, particularly the Finnish, yards could not match XSI due to order books of primarily large cruise large vessels.” “The vessel will replace Amorella on the Turku–Stockholm route so the itinerary will be similar to hers,” reveals Hanses. “We’ll probably arrange a naming competition – when Viking Grace was launched in 2013 we received more than 20,000 suggestions!” To ensure its existing fleet continues to offer high standards and to improve the onboard customer experience, Viking Line has embarked on a €8 million (US$9.4 million) interior modernisation and upgrade programme. The main aim is to improve passenger cabins and provide a richer assortment of restaurants and expanded spa options. The programme started in 2016 with three vessels: Viking Grace, Viking Amorella and Viking Gabriella. Viking Grace, which serves the Turku– Stockholm route, was fitted with a larger sauna and a VIP sauna, as well as more modern conference facilities. Teenagers also now have access to an expanded range of games. Work on Viking Amorella included improving the food service facilities in the café and installing an impressive LED wall in the nightclub. Meanwhile, Viking Gabriella was equipped with eight new restaurants and bars, and had her cabins modernised. Earlier this year, Viking XPRS returned to the route between Helsinki, Finland and Tallinn, Estonia with upgraded restaurant facilities, including in the popular Bistro Bella, which now offers an expanded selection of vegetarian dishes. The ship also has a new daytime and nighttime entertainment venue – Club X – with updated sound and lighting technology. During her dry dock, Viking XPRS was equipped with a new type of propeller that under normal conditions can run on two, rather than three, main engines to reduce both fuel consumption and environmental impact. Viking Line’s Helsinki–Tallinn route is increasingly popular because Estonia is a favourite destination for both Finnish leisure and business travellers, as well as foreign tourists. The line has responded to this strong demand by adding a new passenger catamaran, Viking FSTR, to the route between April and October. She offers 12 daily sailings, each lasting less than two hours. Like all of Viking Line’s routes, both Helsinki and Tallinn are in environmentally sensitive areas so the company has several environmental sustainability initiatives. “We work to ensure that the Baltic Sea and its precious archipelagos are conserved for future generations,” explains Hanses. “For a long time, Viking Line has A sustainable step forward Jans Hanses explains to Sandra Speares how Viking Line is reducing the environmental impact of its operations Viking Grace and Viking Amorella both sail on the Turku–Stockholm route between Finland and Sweden