Ferry impressive

Bastø Fosen is a Norwegian ferry operator that for nearly 20 years has managed and promoted the Moss-Horten route, which forms part of the country’s national highway network connecting Østfold and Vestfold. Located near Oslo and along the Oslofjord, the shores of which are home to approximately 40 per cent of Norway’s residential population, the Moss-Horten route is the busiest in the country by passenger volume. Bastø Fosen has been crucial in encouraging and handling these numbers since it took on the responsibility in 1996, with vehicle figures for example more than doubling between 1996 and 2011, from 720,000 to 1.6 million. In 2011 passenger figures also reached higher than three million.

In order to service this volume Bastø Fosen currently operates five ferries, four of which it owns and a fifth chartered. For the duration of the company’s first ten year tender beginning 1996 it sailed two double-ended ferries, Basto I and II. Both are 109 metres in length and able to accommodate up to 200 passenger cars and 550 passengers at a time. Basto III was added in 2005 at the start of its second tender; it is 116 metres in length, carrying up to 212 cars and 540 passengers. In 2011 Bastø IV was chartered in order to meet a large increase in traffic.

Since the last time Shipping & Marine featured Bastø Fosen, the company added a fifth ferry in summer 2011, ‘Stavanger’ in order to meet rising demand created by the closure of the Oslofjord Tunnel due to fire. Oslofjord Tunnel remained closed for almost a year and boosted Bastø Fosen’s numbers significantly. CEO Audun Saetre illustrates: “For the passed year, the number of large vehicles over 12 metres we have transported increased by about seven per cent, from 15,400 in July 2011 to 16,500 in July 2012, whilst the number of small vehicles increased significantly as well. The total number of vehicles on the Moss-Horten route in July 2011 and 2012 increased from 192,000 to 208,000 – a rise of about eight per cent. Those are very high numbers in one single month.”

What Bastø Fosen has discovered is that, despite the tunnel once again being operational, its figures have remained as high as ever. “The numbers have remained very good,” Audun says. “The remarkable aspect of it is that we have had an increase in trailer and truck traffic, which we expected to display the largest decrease as it used to be the largest user of the tunnel. We can’t pinpoint why large vehicles have remained with us except maybe they have found a new route they prefer to the old one.”

The charter on Stavanger will finish in September 2012 and, despite the increase of numbers, Bastø Fosen is currently unsure as to whether it will retain a fifth vessel in its fleet. Summer traffic can often be conspicuously high and not reflect traffic volumes throughout the rest of the year, so the ferry operator will analyse its statistics up to the end of the charter before committing to another vessel. Careful financial practice has been crucial in the longevity and success of the company, particularly as it is the only Norwegian ferry route not to receive any Government subsidies. As such, the permanent addition of a fifth vessel is a major investment and will undergo close scrutiny.

Nonetheless, Bastø Fosen remains confident about its future. The company was established in 1995 as a subsidiary of Fosen Traffiklag with the sole purpose of operating the Moss-Horten route and, though Fosen Trafikklag has since been absorbed into Torghatten ASA, Bastø Fosen has succeeded in making the ferry crossing more popular than ever. With the current contract expiring in 2015, the first round of tendering is likely to begin in early 2013 at which point Bastø Fosen, as with its two previous contracts, will have to battle with competitors to retain its position. Given the two decades of success and experience it has had, however, the company is understandably confident.

“I can’t tell you much about our plans for the future at the moment but what I can say is that, in general, the traffic has been very good over the last year,” states Audun. “There have been very few problems for the company for the last year and we are pleased with how efficiently our 220 staff have operated the business. There is still three years until the contract renewal but once tendering begins we will fight our hardest to keep the contract. We’ve done this for two periods of ten years and are determined to do it for a third.”

Bastø Fosen
Large passenger increases
Five ferry fleet
Norway’s busiest route