Shipping Passenger loss and two groundings plague Viking Line – “This is a lost year,” the company’s CEO tells HS

Viking Grace’s run aground on Saturday will not significantly increase the company’s predicament, although it is unfortunate, says CEO Jan Hanses.

Shipping company Viking Line’s year has been even gloomier.

The loss of passengers caused by the coronavirus has severely reduced the company’s result to frost and significantly reduced its turnover. A large part of the staff in Finland has been laid off.

In addition, two short-term groundings are now also plaguing the company.

First a passenger ship on the Viking Amore ran aground in the Åland archipelago in September. On Saturday, Viking Grace drove aground South of Mariehamn near the harbor.

CEO of the company Jan Hanses describes the past year in a serious tone.

“Of course this is a lost year,” he tells HS.

First of all, Hanses refers to the effects of the coronavirus. The case of Viking Grace, for example, does not in itself significantly increase the company’s predicament. The ship will be able to be replaced by the Viking Gabriella quickly in service, and passenger numbers have already been small anyway.

“The financial damage from this is not very great now. It is Haver’s deductible in insurance, ie EUR 250,000, ”says Hanses.

Viking Line’s passenger ship Viking Grace ran aground off Mariehamn in Åland on Saturday.­

At the moment, according to Hanses, at all, it looks like the ship didn’t even literally run aground or get to the ground. Instead, the wind pushed against it on a rather steep shore. However, the matter is still being clarified.

“With these, only the propeller is damaged, it can be repaired at a very fast pace. This also gives us the opportunity to do an annual docking, which will save us next year. ”

The extent to which successive groundings or other situations more generally affect the image of the company remains to be seen. According to Hanses, there may be effects, but he does not believe they are significant. The cases this fall have been unrelated, he recalls.

“One was clearly a technical fault and here it was hard weather now. It hurts like this, it’s a pity now that they happened that same autumn. ”

“Grounds or other situations have happened before. They have not had any lasting or greater impact. ”

What a size year and the outlook, Viking Line’s situation is more difficult. The travel restrictions imposed by the coronavirus have taken customers away from the company, and operations have become significantly more difficult.

In January – September, the company’s operating result was a loss of more than EUR 35 million, compared to a plus of EUR 17.5 million at the same time last year.

The company’s turnover decreased by about 60 percent during the same period.

At the end of September, Viking Line’s cash register had melted to just under EUR 30 million, almost double the amount a year earlier.

Now the company is staying afloat with a government loan guarantee and payment facilities.

October In the middle of the year, Viking Line received a guarantee from the state for an additional loan of EUR 38.7 million, which will enable the company to guarantee its liquidity for the next half of the year. In addition, commercial banks have promised to guarantee loans of EUR 4.3 million.

“These allow us to now be able to sustain operations over the winter period until the next high season comes,” Hanses says.

However, he emphasizes that the liquidity loans obtained with the guarantees are not favorable to the company.

In addition, in July Viking Line received a deferral of payment from Finnvera and Vientiluoto for the payment of loan repayments due during the following year.

Transport and FICORA, ie Traficom, on the other hand, supports shipping from Turku to Mariehamn and further to Stockholm. In June, the Agency received an allocation of EUR 24.7 million to support essential maritime transport during the coronavirus epidemic.

Traficom’s traffic obligation and related support will expire at the end of the year. According to Hanses, it has helped reduce losses. The company now hopes that the support will be continued.

“We hope it will continue until the summer now. Discussions have taken place. “

What about what the future of the company looks like when the gloomy year is soon behind?

Hanses believes the situation for shipping companies will be alleviated as soon as the coronavirus is curbed.

“Demand returns when people dare to travel again and don’t get instructions from the authorities to stay home. I expect that next summer the situation has already improved and by then the vaccines have at least started, ”he says.

Hanses does not believe that a difficult year will cause more permanent problems for the industry. In the summer, when the coronavirus situation was a little easier, demand also recovered, which predicts that this may happen again.

Of course, Viking Line’s financial situation is weaker after the crisis than before. At the same time, fortunately, lessons have been learned, Hanses says.

“[Kriisi] has forced even more effective action, those lessons will remain and must be used in the future. ”

What the Accident Investigation Board (Otkes) is conducting a preliminary investigation into the Viking Grace case. It is then decided to open the actual investigation.

Viking Line’s Amorella ship near the shore of Järsö Island near Långnäs in Åland in September.­

Hanses says there is a constant effort to reduce the risks inevitably associated with shipping.

“But our safety work is so good that no injuries have occurred. When something happens, the organization acts in a way that does no harm to outsiders. “

Jan Hanses, CEO of Viking Line, does not believe that the company’s reputation will suffer from the run-off of Amorella and Viking Grace.­

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