Holland Norway Lines (HNL), a maritime firm that operates a route between Emden in Germany and Kristiansand in Norway, is on the brink of financial collapse. The impending bankruptcy can potentially impact the tourism industries of both countries, as well as the Netherlands. According to RTV Noord, the Dutch-Norwegian company has filed for a suspension of payments. The ferry service between Emden and Kristiansand has been suspended for the time being.
It is unclear how many passengers who have booked a crossing from Emden or Kristiansand have been affected. A statement on the HNL website indicates that stranded travelers are left to fend for themselves.
However, according to a spokesperson for the Dutch Consumer Association Consumentenbond, affected passengers have rights if the company actually goes bust. Holland Norway Lines is a member of the Dutch Travel Guarantee Fund, which ensures that customers who have already booked can get their money back. Travelers who are stranded in Norway due to the suspension of ferry traffic must be brought back.
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Until April this year, the MS Romantika, the ship that operated the line service, sailed from the Eemshaven. Then HNL briefly used a quay in Cuxhaven, Germany. Since June this year, the Romantika has called Emden home. The management at the time indicated that it wanted to use the Eemshaven again in the future. But it remains to be seen whether that will happen.
‘Numerous cancellations and extra costs’
HNL points to its “forced” departure from the Eemshaven as one of the causes of the current situation. This has been “a period of numerous cancellations and extra costs, but also with a significant impact on future bookings,” the company said in a press release.
Until October last year, Holland Norway Lines had guaranteed the use of a pier at the Eemshaven owned by Groningen Seaports. Afterward, a “first come, first served” policy was implemented, which often led to scheduled departures being canceled due to the Romantika’s inability to dock. Passengers would frequently learn at the last minute that their trips were canceled.
Own pier in Eemshaven didn’t materialize
Holland Norway Lines wanted to build its own pier, but it was unable to raise the 10 to 15 million euros in investment capital needed. The issue led to a strained relationship between the company and the port authority.
The MS Romantika was able to obtain permanent berths in Germany, but apparently the financial challenges have overwhelmed the company. Earlier this year, the shipping company was already on the brink. Suppliers had to wait patiently before receiving their dues.
Thanks to additional funding from investors, HNL managed to stay afloat. However, it appears that these investors have now turned off the financial tap. The exact details remain unclear; the company has stated through its Chief Financial Officer, Wilbert Boneschansker, that they will not be commenting until an administrator is appointed.
400 employees, 400,000 passengers
According to the company, staff in Groningen and Kristiansand have been informed about the situation. In total, around four hundred employees are said to be affected. “Since its inception in 2022, nearly 400,000 passengers have sailed on the cruise ferry MS Romantika,” HNL stated in the previously mentioned press release.
The news of HNL’s financial problems is a blow to the Dutch and Norwegian tourism industries. The company was a popular option for travelers looking for a convenient and affordable way to cross the North Sea.