After many delays Havila launches final two ships on Norwegian coastal service

The long-delayed intention of Norway-based Havila Kystruten to launch a Norwegian coastal ferry / cruise holiday service has finally been achieved.

On August 18th the Havila Polaris (IMO 9946910) departed on an abbreviated itinerary, while the Havila Pollux (IMO 9946922) will become the fourth and final ship to begin service, with its maiden voyage set for August 23rd.

The more than 15-month delay has finally seen Habila detaching its fleet from the sanctions imposed on Russian financial institution GTLK, its original lender, Last week the two ships arrived in Norway.

Less than three days after arriving in Bergen from the Tersan shipyard in Turkey, Havila Polaris departed its abbreviated itinerary – the result of a delivery voyage that was delayed due to bad weather and a refuelling stop in Spain. The ship departed a day late from Bergen with passengers who had been booked for the August 17th maiden voyage. It travelled directly to Bodø, commencing the normal route from there, starting on Sunday August 20th. The Havila Pollux arrived in Bergen on Thursday August 17th.

Havila Kystruten CEO Bent Martini said that it was “very satisfying that we now have all our four vessels in Norway.”

The Havila Pollux, had been scheduled for delivery in December 2022. With its first sailing this week, Havila will have finally ended a tortuous legal process that began as a result of sanctions against GTLK, the Russian company that under the initial plans, pre-sanctions, would have seen it remain the technical owners of the vessels, with Havila leasing them. Havila was forced into a complex refinancing arrangement. It could not simply buy out GTLK, as that too would have breached sanctions rules. Release agreements from the courts in the UK and Ireland were needed and the funds have been transferred in such a way that avoids any sanctions breach. Martini said that “the Ministry of Transport, our contracting authority, has fortunately supported us throughout a complex process and demonstrated great understanding of the challenges we’ve faced, which unfortunately resulted in significant delays. We are grateful for that support”.

In addition to winning the court approvals to establish “escrow” accounts that were used to pay off the original loans from GTLK, the company also had to refinance. With each of Havila Voyage’s ships valued at about €150m, the shipping company financed the fleet by raising €305m from investment firm HPS Investment Partners. A further €65m was raised in additional equity, and Havila Holding has contributed a loan of €20m.

The first two ships of the fleet, Havila Capella (IMO 9865570) and Havila Castor, entered service earlier in 2022.

The four ships operate under contract with the Norwegian government to maintain the coastal service from Bergen to Kirkenes. The government chose to split the contract between Havila and Hurtigruten to create more options and competition. In addition to 12-day round-trips sold as cruises, the ships provide ferry transport services. They are also able to carry cars along the coastal route.

2021-built, Norway-flagged, 15,519 gt Havila Polaris is owned by Havila Polaris AS care of Havila Kystruten Operations of Fosnavag, Norway. It is entered with Skuld (Skuld Nordics & Eastern Europe) on behalf of Havila Kystruten Operations AS. As of August 19th the vessel was travelling from Mjolstadneset to Kirkenes, both Norway, ETA August 23rd.

2022-built, Norway-flagged, 15,519 gt Havila Pollux is owned by Havila Pollux AS care of Havila Kystruten Operations AS of Fosnavaag, Norway. It is entered with Skuld (Skuld Nordics & Eastern Europe) on behalf of Havila Kystruten Operations AS. As of August 19th it was moored at Bergen.

The 2021-built Havila Capella is entered with Skuld; as of August 19th it was en route from Trondheim to Bergen, ETA August 20th.

The 2021-built Havila Castor is entered with Skuld; as of August 19th it was en route from Finnsnes to Kirkenes.