Gothenburg, Sweden, rethinks its procedures to ensure successful calls

This year was set to be a record year for Gothenburg in terms of calls and passengers with more than 80 calls originally planned. But everything was put on a hold after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic at the beginning of the year.

In September the season slowly crept back to life at America Cruise Terminal in Gothenburg with the arrival of cruise ships from Germany.

“When Germany lifted their travel band to Sweden in July we saw an opportunity that we might start to receive calls from Germany. Everything was very uncertain due to restrictions in countries around us and also whether we would be able to fulfil all the protective measures to ensure a safe call,” said Martin Eskelinen, cruise operation manager Port of Gothenburg.

In August, when the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) presented its guidelines for a restart of the cruise industry in the EU, the work with planning really took off. Since Swedish ports have always been open, there were no particular guidelines or recommendations from Swedish authorities about cruise calls, except for the general guidelines for all Swedes and tourists visiting Sweden.

Instead the ports of Gothenburg, Stockholm, Visby, Malmo and Helsingborg collaborated on developing a Covid-19 Port Management Plan, based on the guidelines from EMSA. This plan was sent out to agents and cruiselines so that they could review it and come back with feedback.

In late August, the Port of Gothenburg was contacted by Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, which indicated that it was planning to call Gothenburg in September. The port and the cruiseline exchanged protocols and plans to make sure that both would operate on the same level.

The port also discussed the plan with the Disease Control and Prevention Center in the County of Västra Götaland, which was satisfied with all the protective measures taken by the cruiseline and the port.

At the beginning of September, therefore, the people of Gothenburg had the opportunity to see the first cruiseship, Hanseatic Inspiration, for almost a year arrive at the port.

“Gothenburg was one of the first ports in Northern Europe to receive cruiseships where passengers and crew could go ashore for exploring the city since the start of the pandemic,” said Eskelinen.

“We realised that the arrival of a cruiseship would draw some attention from the media so, before the call, we informed them about the call and all the protective measures taken. So, on the day when the vessel arrived, fairly little attention was raised and only positive news was spread in the newspaper. It gave some hope that things were going back to normal.

“The call was handled just like any other regular cruise call with a whole series of risk-mitigating measures based on social distancing, passenger flow control and with a particular focus on hygiene The first call was with a relatively low number of guests, which gave us a good chance to test and develop our protective measures further in consultation with the vessel.”

Once ashore, the passengers and crew had a chance to explore Gothenburg on their own and also on organised tours from Hapag-Lloyd. “We also had staff from the Tourist Office on hand to assist them and point them in the right direction. The central berth America Cruise Terminal gave the guests and crew a perfect location to explore the city on foot.

“Gothenburg is a very green and spacious city with many parks and attractions within walking distance, so the guests were able to explore the city without mixing too much with the locals. And several guided walking tours were also organised in the area around the America terminal which is full of maritime history. The vessel also used their own Zodiacs and kayaks to explore the city from the waterside and inside the channels. These were much appreciated by the guests.”

Since it was the first call of Hanseatic Inspiration, a plaque exchange ceremony was held onboard. “The Captain expressed his happiness that the vessel was finally back in service and that everything was running smooth.”

The ship stayed overnight and left early the next morning to go on an expedition day in the archipelago north of Gothenburg before returning home to Hamburg.

Eskelinen commented: “The calls in September were successful without any issues so more calls were planned in October from Hapag-Lloyd and this time Europa 2 came with a larger number of guests. All procedures and measurements taken before were repeated and tested with more guests successfully. In total there were six calls from Hapag-Lloyd and all has been working well.”

In addition TUI Cruises has been a frequent visitor to Gothenburg during its ‘blue cruises’ in September and October. On five calls made by Mein Schiff 2, visits were made to the archipelago surrounding Gothenburg and to just outside the Nya Alvsborg fortress, which protected Gothenburg from the Danish people.

In conclusion Eskelinen said: “What was set to be a record year in Gothenburg did turn out to be something completely different. We all needed to re-think and try something new. But, when we summarise this season, the feeling is that we all now collaborate to a greater extent to find new solutions to navigate safely through this storm.”

(Port of Gothenburg, Cruise Europe)