Swedish Birka Line goes out of business
The passenger shipping industry in Scandinavia became the newest segment to respond to the financial pressures created by the coronavirus pandemic.
Birka Cruises, part of the Finish Eckero Group, has announced that as many as 500 people will leave business laying off. Founded in 1971 and operating as the only cruise line in Sweden, Birka had announced in March that the operations would be suspended until May but was later forced to extend the suspension on the basis of travel restrictions.
Citing the financial impact of COVID-19 along with the uncertainty about how travel is going to develop in the future, the company said it had decided instead to close the business permanently. The company's one ship known as the Birka Stockholm was built in 2004 and operated daily cruises into the Stockholm archipelago or multi-day cruises around the Baltic Sea.
Its parent company, Rederiaktiebolaget Eckero, established in 1961, also operates in the area passenger and car ferries, as well as freight services between Finland , Sweden and the Baltic countries, and a bus service. In 2007 Eckero acquired Bikra.
The Swedish ferry company Silja Line also announced separately that, due to the ongoing downturn in operations, this would reduce staff. For workers working on the ferries sailing between Finland and Sweden, approximately 300 jobs will be cut mainly.
Because of the travel restrictions, the company reported that only people who need to travel for work are allowed aboard the ferries which also continue to carry freight. Silja had a strong tourist trade before the restrictions, attracting people with its duty-free stores and other amenities.
Recently, the company reported a 72.5 per cent decline in passengers in June versus the previous year. Cargo dropped by more than five per cent while in June passenger vehicles were down by almost 40 per cent.
Silja said several vessels would be reassigned to alternative routes. Whether the Birka Stockholm could be deployed as a ferry, or offered for sale, is uncertain.
Maritime Business World