Way of the Vikings

Smyril Line is a ferry company specialising in an international route between Denmark, Iceland and its home in the Faroe Islands. This traces the journey undertaken by Vikings, a heritage used by the company to create a unique and exciting experience for guests during the weeklong cruise aboard the MS Norröna. In addition to this, the company also provides lifeline travel options for Faroe Islanders travelling to Europe as well as a crucial import / export link for commodities on the islands.

The Smyril Line journey takes place over the course of a week. MS Norröna leaves Hirtshals, Denmark, on a Saturday and arrives in the Faroe Islands on Monday morning. It leaves for Iceland on Monday evening, arriving on Tuesday morning before leaving for its return leg to the Faroe Islands on Wednesday. It arrives on Thursday before returning to Denmark on the Saturday, ready to repeat the same journey. Each year the company carries 40,000 passengers with a majority destined for Iceland. Recent years have seen a growing tourism trade for the Faroe Islands itself. “Twice a year we also travel two special routes to Britain,” says CEO Rúni Poulsen. “One sees the MS Norröna travelling to Newcastle and back; the other travels from Hirtshals, via the Faroe Islands, to the Shetland Islands and Orkney Islands before returning to the Faroes again. We only do these as one-off services.”

The MS Norröna is a modern 165 metre, 6350 DWT or 35.966 GT super ferry that travels up to 21 knots. It can carry up to 800 cars or 130 trailers as well as 1482 passengers across a number of different types of berths. There is a single suite room, for example, as well as deluxe, standard and couchette rooms both inside and outside and disabled options as well to cater toward an entire cross section of passengers. Onboard leisure facilities include three restaurants, three bars, a swimming pool, and gym.

The ferry line is not only a successful cruise option, however, but an essential part of the Faroe Islands’ trade as well. “Next year the route will be 30 years old,” says Rúni, “and it has been very successful from the outset. We are the only ro-ro (RO/PAX) service in the North Atlantic and are a big part of the fresh fish market caught in what is considered the cleanest environment in the world. We transport the fish in a very efficient and effective way.

“For 40 weeks of the year we have a one week schedule between Denmark, Faroe Islands and Iceland but during the summer we double our schedule so that the route between Denmark and the Faroe Islands runs twice a week. This doubles our capacity and helps ease the bottleneck we have during the peak tourist season. It also means, of course, that we can provide stronger trade links during this period.”

Smyril Line provides logistic solutions in co-operation with Blue Water Shipping, an international freight mover that provides solutions across road, rail, sea and air. The connection between the two companies has several years of history in it. Smyril Lines’ unique position as the only ro-ro service in the North Atlantic provides Blue Water Shipping with excellent opportunities to provide its customers North Atlantic solutions, whilst Blue Water Shipping’s international network enables Smyril Line to deliver its products to Europe beyond Denmark.

“We have seen good business across both passenger and freight markets during the last 18 months,” comments Rúni. “Of course it is Iceland that attracts most passengers but thankfully we have seen increasing demand for the Faroe Islands as well, which we are very happy with. Development in the freight trade has been very good, particularly during the last eight months when the fish trade has begun to recover. Because we still have capacity on our ship, we have the space to increase our volumes and therefore we still see opportunities to develop Smyril Line without even needing to purchase a new ferry.”

Rising business, and particularly the recovering fish and tourism trades means the future of Smyril Line is filled with potential to establish itself as an even stronger partner. There is very little competition on the routes it travels but this hasn’t stopped the company from focusing on the improvement of its services.

“There are hiccups of course: in particular, we are feeling the effects of higher bunker prices. However, in this vein we are already working with a local company called Green Steam, which manufactures more environmentally friendly and cost efficient power systems. By working with them we not only help reduce our environmental impact but support the local economy as well. Apart from this, we see that the Faroe Islands will continue to grow in popularity as a tourist destination, particularly in the Denmark, Germany and Benelux regions. At that point we will see an increase in sales and will use this to our advantage, providing a more efficient and well-catered service. There is a very bright future for our services.”

Weeklong passenger cruise
Traces historical Viking voyages
Unique ro-ro service