From shore to shore

Located in the southeast of Norway with capital city Oslo at its north end, Oslofjord is one of the country’s busiest and most populated waterways. With nearly two million residents living along its coastline or on islands in the bay itself – constituting approximately 40 per cent of Norway’s total population – it is no surprise that ferry services in the region are in high demand. The Moss-Horten Ferry, which connects the counties of Østfold on the east coast and Vestfold on the west coast about half way down the bay, is the most trafficked of all ferry routes both regionally and nationally.

Bastø Fosen was established as a subsidiary of public transport company Fosen Trafikklag to run the Moss-Horten Ferry route. On September 12th 1994, Fosen Traffiklag applied for the tender for a ferry service running between Moss and Horten for the duration of a ten-year period between January 1st 1996 and December 31st 2005, winning it from former operator Gokstad on November 3rd 1995. Bastø Fosen was formally established on October 12th 1995 specifically for this service. For the duration of this tender the operator possessed a fleet of two double-ended ferries – MF Bastø I and MS Bastø II, each capable of carrying up to 200 cars and 550 passengers.

When the 2006 to 2015 license came up for tender in 2003, Bastø Fosen’s proven record of reliable and efficient services saw it retain its ownership of the route. In 2005 the company added a third ferry to the line, MS Bastø III, built by Remontowa Shipyards, which has capacity for 220 cars and 540 passengers. Three ships are now in place guided by Bastø Fosen’s keen sense of maritime business, and with increased numbers of people on both sides of Oslofjord, the route surged forward to become the country’s busiest ferry route, more than doubling the annual volume of vehicles from 720,000 in 1995 to 1.6 million in 2011. The same year also saw passenger figures of three million. With the frequency of trips having increased from hourly under the previous operator to one every 30 minutes currently, customer numbers have maintained a steady growth of five per cent for several years.

September 2011 saw Bastø Fosen welcome a new CEO into its ranks. Formerly managing director at the Norwegian Organisation for Security Expertise (NOORSI), Audun Saetre has been appointed due not only to his work history in NOORSI and as director of Norwegian maritime Directorate, but also due to his education at the Norwegian Naval Academy and history as a Naval captain. These qualities have formed Audun into an ideal figure to lead Bastø Fosen’s complex and busy activities

There are three ships in Bastø Fosen’s fleet, all of which are very similar in build and with the first two being identical. Constructed by Fosen Mek, a subsidiary of major Norwegian maritime engineering group Bergen Group, MF Bastø I and II were delivered in March and June 1997 respectively to improve the experience of crossing passengers. Until that point the operator had been using existing vessels Einar Tambarskjelve and Holger Stjern but these did not meet the standards that Bastø Fosen and Fosen Traffiklag expected. Thus two new vessels were brought in: 109 metres in length, 18.5 metres wide, 5505 gross tonnes and able to make the 6.5 mile crossing in 30 minutes.

The more recently introduced MF Bastø III is an all-round larger ferry at 116.2 metres in length and 19.5 metres in width. It weighs 7310 gross tonnes and, though with a slightly lower passenger carrying capacity, its design means it can handle far greater vehicle numbers. This has given the operator greater flexibility in being able to tailor its services to the expected volumes at certain times of day and year. Given the steady growth in numbers, it is expected the company will add a fourth ferry to its route. First brought up in 2005, the global financial crisis and rapidly increasing prices in fuel and construction that followed undoubtedly put those plans on hold. Nonetheless, purchased in December 2010, the Bastø IV entered service during March 2011 and has gone on to become an essential part of the bay-crossing register, helping the company increase its hourly crossings from four to five due to help cover the closing of the Oslofjord tunnel. This continuing success almost guarantees that Bastø Fosen will commission a fifth ferry for its fleet in the near future.

Fosen Traffiklag, founder and former owner of Bastø Fosen, has since been acquired by Torghatten ASA, a multimodal firm involved with almost every aspect of transport and logistics from public transport and maritime services to real estate and security. With a turnover of 2.8 billion NOK and more than 2300 employees, it is also one of the country’s largest transport groups. As a parent of Bastø Fosen, it has provided invaluable support to help the ferry operator become one of Norway’s most respected.

With new and experienced CEO Auden at the helm of Bastø Fosen’s activities, and with steady growth having remained constant even through the worst of economic upheavals, the future looks bright for the operator. Today it employs 220 employees and has an annual turnover of 280 million NOK but with the next round of tendering taking place within two years, the potential for growth in both these figures is almost unlimited.

Recently welcomed new CEO
Norway’s busiest ferry route
Part of the larger Torghatten ASA group