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Corona made Gothenburg an unexpected cruise leader
The cruise year 2020 did not turn out quite as intended anywhere in the world. Prior to the year, Gothenburg was in an upward trend as a cruise destination with a record number of calls and passengers booked. But then came the corona pandemic and ravaged the season. But when the year is summed up, the port of Gothenburg is a stand-out cruise port after all – for reasons other than what was originally intended.
Already in February, the Port of Gothenburg introduced special directives, including requirement all calling vessels to submit a Maritime Declaration of Health before arrival. All due to the corona pandemic, which at that time had not yet reached Sweden. It took until September 4 before the first cruise call reached Gothenburg, as the ship Hanseatic Inspiration with only 51 passengers called at the America Cruise Terminal near the Gothenburg city centre.
– We were one of the first ports in northern Europe where cruise passengers were allowed disembark, and the whole process was carried out with great precautionary measures both from the shipping company and us on the land side,” said Martin Eskelinen, Cruise Operations Manager at the Gothenburg Port Authority.
“We followed the Covid-19 Port Management Plan that we had worked on with during the summer, inspired by Landvetter City Airport and Stena Line, among others. With that as a guide, we were able to handle the call in a safe way for everyone involved,” he continues.
Fewer calls still more than most
During the decimated season that followed, ten more cruise ships called at the Port of Gothenburg. In total, the port ended up with 11 calls instead of the more than 80 that were planned. But 11 calls were enough to place Gothenburg higher than normal on the global list of cruise ports in 2020.
“It was a very different year than we thought. But with that said, I am proud of how we have handled the situation and adapted to circumstances we have not been able to affect. Thanks to our and not least the shipping companies' rigorous safety processes on board and before departure, we have managed the full season without incident. With that in mind, the year has been a success,” said Martin Eskelinen.
Although the booking situation looks relatively good in the current situation for the Port of Gothenburg, the cruise season 2021 is still an uncertain story, both in Gothenburg and globally.
“2021 will be marked by a restart of the industry where ships are operated under strict health protocols, probably with individual nationalities on board shorter cruises. For Gothenburg, the ships will probably come from the immediate area of Germany and England, which today are already large markets for us,” said Martin Eskelinen.
New post-covid concepts
Sometime around 2022–2023, he believes that the industry will begin to return to normal levels again. But by then, Martin Eskelinen thinks that Gothenburg has a good starting point, thanks to how the port handled the cruise year of 2020.
“The world has been watching us this year, and we have received very positive feedback from shipping companies and operators on how we have handled the security in relation to cruise visits. We are also at the forefront of our planning for local excursions and experiences for guests in a modern cruise world, where we develop new ideas and concepts adapted to the new reality we are in,” said Martin Eskelinen.