Hurtigruten ("Express Route", formally The coastal route Bergen-Kirkenes) is a Norwegian public coastal route transporting passengers that travel locally, regionally and between the ports of call, and also cargo between ports north of Tromsø.
Hurtigruten provides daily, year-round and consistent traffic between Bergen and Kirkenes with 34 ports of call on northbound and 33 ports of call on southbound sailings. The Ministry of Transport and Communications in Norway has set minimum capacity requirements of 320 passengers, 120 berths and cargo for 150 Euro-pallets. The current agreement with the privately held company Hurtigruten AS entered into force on 1.1.2012 and expires on 31.12.2019, with an optional 1-year extension. From 2021 the two companies Hurtigruten AS and Havila Kystruten AS will operate the route.
Hurtigruten was established in 1893[under what name?] by government contract to improve communications along Norway's long, jagged coastline. Vesteraalen began the first round-trip journey from Trondheim on 2 July 1893 bound for Hammerfest, with calls at Rørvik, Brønnøy, Sandnessjøen, Bodø, Svolvær, Lødingen, Harstad, Tromsø and Skjervøy. The ship arrived at Svolvær on Monday 3 July at 8pm after 35½ hours and at Hammerfest on Wednesday 5 July after 67 hours. She was commanded by Hurtigruten founder Richard With. As of 2008, the Trondheim-Svolvær trip took 33 hours and the Trondheim-Hammerfest trip took 41 hours 15 min.
Before Hurtigruten opened, only Vesteraalens Dampskibsselskab was willing to make the trip through the then poorly-charted waters; the voyage was especially difficult during the long, dark winters. Hurtigruten was a substantial breakthrough for communities along its path. Mail from central Norway to Hammerfest, which used to take three weeks in summer and five months in winter, could now be delivered in seven days.
Encouraged by Vesteraalens' early success, several other shipping companies obtained a concession to operate the route, extended to run between Bergen in the southwest and Kirkenes in the far northeast. A fleet of 11 ships visits each of the 34 ports daily, both northbound and southbound.
Until the 1940s most ports north of Trondheim could not be reached by road from Oslo, so the sea was the only means of access. Beginning in the 1960s, the role of Hurtigruten changed, in part because of the construction of a local airport network and road improvements. Operating subsidies were gradually phased out, and the operators put more emphasis on tourism. New, bigger and more luxurious ships were introduced in the 1980s, with attention given to hot tubs, bars, restaurants and other comforts. However, Hurtigruten still serves important passenger and cargo needs, and operates 365 days a year. The last two independent shipping companies, Ofotens og Vesteraalens Dampskibsselskab (OVDS) and Troms Fylkes Dampskibsselskap (TFDS), merged on 1 March 2006 as the Hurtigruten Group, a year later becoming Hurtigruten ASA. In 2015 Hurtigruten was delisted from the Oslo stock exchange after the company was acquired by the private equity group TDR Capital. In addition to the voyages in Norway, the company operates expedition cruises to Greenland, Canada, South America, Iceland, Svalbard and Antarctica.
Memorial in Bodø commemorating the incident on board MS Earling Jarl in 1958. Total height: 2,3 meters. Sculptor: Istvan Lisztes.
Before World War II, a number of ships perished, usually because they ran aground in bad visibility.
Most of the Hurtigruten fleet was sunk during World War II.
In September 1954 SS Nordstjernen ran aground in Raftsundet at night. The ship started taking on water and sank. Five persons died. There were 157 passengers and a crew of 46 on board.
On January 8, 1958, a fire broke out on board MS Erling Jarl while the vessel was docked at Bodø. Due to the thick smoke 14 people died of smoke inhalation. Today a memorial to the incident stands at Bodø.
On October 21, 1962 MS Sanct Svithun ran onto a reef in the maritime area Folda in Nord-Trøndelag because of a major navigational error after leaving Trondheim. Of 89 persons on board (passengers, crew and two postal officers) 41 died.
In 2011 MS Nordlys suffered an engine room fire, leading to two deaths among the crew.
Küchler, Kai-Uwe; Küchler, Manfred (2011). Abenteuer Hurtigruten: Mit dem Postschiff ins Reich der Mitternachtssonne [Hurtigruten Adventure: by mail ship to the realm of the midnight sun] (in German). Würzburg, Germany: Verlag-Haus Würzburg. ISBN9783800346011.
Küchler, Kai-Uwe; Küchler, Manfred (2015). Hurtigruten: Mit dem Postschiff ins Licht der Mitternachtssonne [Hurtigruten: by mail ship into the light of the midnight sun] (in German). Würzburg, Germany: Stürtz. ISBN9783800346196.
Möbius, Michael; Ster, Annette (2016). Hurtigruten: die schönste Seereise der Welt [Hurtigruten: the most beautiful sea voyage in the world] (in German) (5th ed.). Ostfildern, Germany: DuMont Reiseverlag. ISBN9783770173990.
Mosler, Axel M.; Schröder, Ralf (2013). Traumreise Hurtigruten [Dream Trip Hurtigruten] (in German). München: Bruckmann. ISBN9783765458798.
Pollmann, Bernhard (2014). Hurtigruten: die schönste Seereise der Welt [Hurtigruten: the most beautiful sea voyage in the world] (in German). München: Kunth Verlag. ISBN9783955040819.
Spitzenberger, Hans-Joachim; Mosler, Axel M. (2016). Hurtigruten - Zeit für das Beste Highlights - Geheimtipps - Wohlfühladressen [Hurtigruten - Time for the Best Highlights - Insider Tips - Wellbeing Addresses] (in German) (4th revised ed.). München: Bruckmann. ISBN9783734308369.
Schröder, Ralf (2011). Die Schiffe der Hurtigruten vom Postdampfer zum Erlebnisliner [The Ships of Hurtigruten from the mail steamers to the adventure liners] (in German). Bielefeld: Delius Klasing. ISBN9783768833233.
Stavseth, Redar (1963). Nordover med Hurtigruten: Historie og hverdagsbilder gjennom sytti år [Northward with Hurtigruten: History and everyday images through seventy years] (in Norwegian). Oslo: Grundt Tanum. OCLC504478333.