Big investment, big reward.
That’s the bottom line of a study by the Norwegian Coastal Administration (NCA) recommending a large-scale expansion of Longyearbyen Harbor. The NCA studied ten options, and is recommending a large-scale floating pier with a dock designed for fishing industry vessels and dock for tourism and research vessels. In addition, there would also be a terminal with 1,000 square meters of interior space that could be used for retail, storage and scientific purposes.
“Although investment and maintenance costs are relatively high, the overall beneficial effects large enough to make the project economically viable,” a report issued Nov. 1 by the NCA states.
An upgraded harbor is one of the top priorities of many local political and business leaders, since the current pier is barely adequate for the largest cruise ships now visiting. Furthermore, a government policy change that will allow fish processing companies to operate in Svalbard means such facilities for such vessels will likely be needed several years from now.
“First I want to thank the NCA for the good job they have done,” Longyearbyen Mayor Arild Olsen told Svalbardposten. “The concept study is a reflection of what we have dealt with here locally, both administratively and politically. I am glad that they are so clear in their recommendations. Now we will continue working on this both here and with the national politicians.”
The NCA’s recommendation is based on forecasts showing that tourism, research and education activities will likely evolve in a positive direction in a future, according to a statement by the agency. The report estimates 961 vessels carrying 61,900 people will visit Longyearbyen in 2016, 1,648 vessels carrying 121,700 people will visit in 2040 and 2,317 vessels carrying 176,300 people will visit in 2060.
In addition, the floating pier and customized buildings are better than traditional fixed facilties due to difficult ground and weather conditions in Longyearbyen, according to the report.
“Another clear finding in the research work is the creation of a fishing industry in Longyearbyen will have a very positive economic benefit,” the statement notes. “Establishing a fishing industry will have little impact on the usefulness of other infrastructure and one can therefore consider such solutions regardless of other quay options.”
Of the ten alternatives considered, five were based on the concept of floating docks. The preferred alternative is one of two with the highest potential for renting out interior space and, unlike the other alternative, also includes the fishing pier and its commercial potential.
“Overall, this gives significant beneficial effects for passengers and transport users, primarily driven by the significant cost savings for the fishing fleet,” the report states. “Other groups of vessels, crew and especially passengers also get significant new effects in terms of reduced costs and increased comfort. New commercial space, storage capacity and increased ability to accommodate ships berthed will also mean also big revenue increases for Longyearbyen Harbor and other operators.”
Including the fishing pier also means “a reduced risk of accidents for the fishing fleet associated with avoiding voyages between the fishing grounds around Svalbard and landing facilities on the mainland,” according to the report.
The report was commissioned for the Norwegian Ministry of Transport and Public Security. Parliament approved 15 million kroner in the current year’s budget for local harbor planning – far below the 100 million kroner Olsen and some other local leaders were hoping for so actual work could begin – although dissenting officials said additional funding wasn’t necessary until an actual design existed.