Hurtigruten, cargo - Travel tips from Konditori 100

The norwegian nature does not make it easy to travel on land, so the sea has always been important. The skills of the norwegians as seafarers are well known, but it was not easy to keep sea routes along the coast in operation in elder days.

In 1814 the norwegian coast was fitted with only five 'light-houses', and none north of Trondheim. In 1863 there were only 45 official navigation marks north of Trondheim. The railway to Trondheim was finished in 1880, but this only led southwards from northern Norway.

There were many small ports, where there now and then were lots of cargo that needed transport southwards. This cargo was mainly fish.

When Hurtigruten started, it was primarily for transports of mail, passengers and expressgoods - and fresh fish. Fish is still a large part of the cargo. Here it is dried cod, I guess.

(Each 'bale' was almost as high as a man, and these were some of those I saw in one of the ports.)

Loading and unloading was to a great part made by hand, into the 1980s (and still is when it comes to the eldest ships). Wooden boxes, barrels and sacks were common containers for the goods. With cranes on the ships a number of containers could be lifted in large nets, but the rest was made by hand. If a car should be transported, it was lifted aboard the ship. The eldest ships in traffic in 1999 can carry 4 cars each.

New modern ships
In 1982 the first modern ship was taken in use. The cargo area in the newer ships is 1.500 square metres and a cooler room with 880 square metres. The newest ships can carry 50 cars. Loading and unloading is made through an opening to the cargo area on the side of the ship.

Now trucks can be used in a better way. Cars are driven aboard, using a large elevator on the ship.

It was fascinating to watch loading and unloading in larger ports, where two trucks were cooperating. Or like in Vadsø where three trucks were in action.

It goes fast, and cargo shall be fetched or left on different places on the quay where the sight often is blocked, but they never were near a collission. Aboard the ship another truck takes the cargo to and from the storing places in the ship.

In Bergen I saw another vehicle that makes the cargo handling going faster.

Cargo to one ship is placed on a large wagon, as it arrives with trucks or other ships. When the ship arrives, the wagon is taken close to the ship, which means shorter distance to drive for the loading trucks.

But, still you can see some of the old-fashioned containers, beeing handled in the old way.

I think that this mix of a cruise on a ship that is in normal coastal traffic, with the many visits to various ports and the everyday work when visiting these ports, adds to the experience of Hurtigruten. It is not only a cruise ship with arranged events - it is a ship that is a unit in a real community, contributing to the life along the norwegian coast. I definitely prefer this kind of a cruise.

2000-08-05. Text/pictures: Arne Granfoss ©. Prod: AG Informice