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Analysis: Here is the Swedes' plan with the Oslo boat

DFDS was fleeing away from the Oslo route. On the other hand, Gotlandsbolaget has obtained well-functioning and viable cruise ferries at a good price - and they can last many, many more years

MONDAY, THE SWEDES STRUCK yet again across the Øresund and into Denmark. This time they hit right into the heart of the Danish ferry sector: The Oslo boats. The maritime equivalent of the crown jewels. Thus, the venerable DFDS is, for the first time in many decades, completely and utterly out of the cruise business.

Many readers of the present trade journal will be familiar with how DFDS in the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s had great ambitions to conquer a portion of the lucrative cruise segment, and even made its entrance into the world's absolute cruise capital, Miami. It went badly. DFDS lost huge sums of money and was close to breaking its neck. In the DFDS headquarters, the last offices working with fancy restaurant concepts, cabin interior design, and booking of the season's band in the disco are now being shut down.

Now, DFDS can focus on its role as a transport and logistics company, however still with passenger transport as a product on the shelf, for example on the short sea routes across the English Channel. Alas, cruising has truly never been a Danish discipline - not even DFDS managed to rise to the task. A couple of Albatros expedition cruise ships in the North Atlantic are now all that's left in Denmark's Blue cruise segment.   

But what do the Swedes really want with the Oslo boat? First and foremost, they received a good offer. And they took it. DFDS has been fleeing the route following the failed attempt to secure EU financing for the construction of a new generation of hydrogen-powered Oslo boats.

Gotlandsbolaget only had to pay 400 million DKK to take over a monopoly route between two capitals, the two cruise ferries, and the associated contracts surrounding the port terminals in Copenhagen and Oslo. The Swedes could turn that package into a profitable business. Mini-cruises between Scandinavian holiday destinations are Gotlandsbolagets' area of expertise. Here, the company can leverage its economies of scale to make daily operations viable. Gotlandsbolaget has been focused on refining its business in this particular area during all the years that the segment has been increasingly languishing and overlooked within the DFDS organization.

The Swedes will be able to manage central parts of the operations - for example, marketing and booking - efficiently through their existing organization, and the break-even point will be lower than at DFDS. Unlike DFDS, Gotlandsbolaget will have as their starting point that the ferries are to last many more years. Forget all of DFDS' previous talk about new, green ferries on the route before 2030.

The Swedes have acquired two well-functioning cruise ferries at a good price. An important point is that they are not afraid of being stuck with them. DFDS was. If the customer base for the Copenhagen-Oslo route dries up completely over the next ten years, the Swedes will not see it as a disaster. In this case, they could use the two cruise ferries elsewhere in their network in Scandinavia. Gotlandsbolaget is an expert in this specific rare type of ferry, which consists of cruise ferries with car decks. Think of the routes from the Swedish mainland to Gotland. Or consider the routes from Stockholm to the Åland Islands/Finland or the Baltic states.

  

Finally, it should be mentioned that no one is forcing the Oslo boat to sail to Oslo. Who knows, in a few years, the Oslo boat might be renamed the Stockholm boat, the Gotland boat, or something completely different. Or, to continue with the speculation: The Swedes could pull the current Oslo ferries out of Copenhagen and deploy them on a more lucrative route in Scandinavia; and instead, put smaller cruise ships without car decks on the route between Copenhagen and Oslo. Only imagination sets the limit.       

The Swedes have acquired two well-functioning cruise ferries at a good price, and they are not afraid of being stuck with them.
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