Briefs from Svalbardposten for the week of June 18, 2019


Demolition of more than 140 residences in avalanche homes delayed until at least end of summer, new rules for passenger ships in Svalbard pose hardship for operators of older dayboats and Svalbard’s biggest drinking contest is again underway.

Demolition of avalanche-zone homes delayed until end of summer
Plans to begin demolishing more than 140 residences in avalanche-prone areas starting in May are now on hold until at least the end of the summer while environmental surveys and the competitive bidding process take place, according to Store Norske, which is responsible for overseeing the project. Keys to the first residences to be demolished were handed over in April by residents who rushed to move everything out, but those involved in the task itself aren’t in as big a hurry. An assessment by Multiconsult, expected to be completed soon, will determine what structures must be demolished, what can be relocated, and how different types of materials should be reused or sorted. A determination to save as much as possible by moving it is one of the main reasons for the delay, according to Karl-Eric Melander, Store Norske’s property manager. Furthermore, the bidding process by Longyearbyen’s municipal government is not expected to be completed until July. Homes in the downtown neighborhood known as Lia, where two major avalanches struck in 2015 and 2017, are scheduled to be demolished first. After that will be nearby homes at Vannledningsdalen, although work there may not start for a couple of years.

New rules for Svalbard passenger ships pose hardship for dayboat operators
New rules for ships carrying 12 or more passengers in Svalbard announced last week by Norway’s Ministry of Trade and Fisheries have some local tour companies complaining they will need to make major upgrades to vessels to be in compliance. The regulations, designed largely to bring all vessels into compliance with a polar code adopted by the The International Maritime Organization as of Jan. 1, 2017, are more likely to have operational rather than economic implications for many major operators already certified under that code. But fr others, including those operating day trips from Longyerbyen on smaller and older vessels, the impacts are more pronounced – and uncertain. Trond Wassbakk, head of the company operating the Polargirl, said the company took steps such as a new sprinkler system to meet new rules adopted in 2009, “but then the authorities went back on the requirements. It cost us over one million kroner and is halfway mounted today. It was money right out the window.”

When the will the ‘stem’ break? Svalbard’s biggest drinking competition is again underway
The giant “champagne glass” is emerging into view on Operafjellet, so guesses are being accepted until July 10 for what date the “stem” will break due to melting. The state of the snow suggests a late break date this year – with the latest ever in 14 years of the contest being Aug. 31 in 2012. Submissions may be sent to The person submitting the winning date wins a bottle of champagne, with a drawing conducted if there is more than one entry for the correct date.