(6 a.m. EDT) — Swan Hellenic’s new cruise ship SH Vega has been delayed in Helsinki ahead of its first departure — a pre-launch press and trade cruise to Copenhagen.
The 152-passenger expedition ship was due to set sail at 3pm yesterday after being christened, but ‘technical and administrative’ problems – due to where the ship is registered – led to a 27-hour delay.
SH Vega is now due to arrive in Copenhagen on July 14 at 9 a.m., before sailing to Tromso, Norway, where it is due to begin its Arctic season on July 20.
There is no indication that future crossings will be affected at this stage.
“Over the past night we managed to resolve our technical and administrative issues and the ship is ready to sail,” Captain Tuomo Leskinen said in an announcement this morning.
“However, we decide to postpone our departure to 6 p.m. this evening and with this departure time, our ETA will be at 9 a.m. on Thursday the 14th.”
CEO Andreas Zito added: “We were ready to leave at 4am, but we prefer not to leave then because we were very aware that some people would have problems getting home arriving at 4 or 5 am in Copenhagen.
“For the sake of your travel schedule, we prefer to reschedule until tonight so as not to disrupt your travel plans.”
Yesterday the ship was christened in a ceremony at the Helsinki Shipyard, where it was built, and was due to set sail soon after. However, in a series of announcements throughout the day, the departure time was continually pushed back.
The ship has had a number of challenges to get to this point, including divesting itself of Russian-backed investors and forcing the line to buy it from the shipyard at auction.
SH Vega was under sanctions until last week and only started the registration process last week – a process that usually takes four weeks. It was originally registered in Valletta, but “we didn’t get very good cooperation from Malta”.
The line then approached the Bahamas and Panama simultaneously, but the Bahamas was closed due to a national holiday, the ship is now registered in Panama.
The tugs and lifebuoys have been replaced in the last 48 hours and even the hull has been repainted to reflect the new register.
Sister ship SH Minerva operated a shortened season in Antarctica, before it was cut short due to the war in Ukraine and the subsequent ban on Russian investors.
The vessel is currently in Uruguay, where it has been for six months. It is not currently owned by Swan Hellenic, but by the Bank of Ireland and Swan is pressuring the bank to sell. The line hopes to complete the sale and registration in August/September and the ship is expected to enter service on October 17, 2022.
Swan Hellenic is currently negotiating with banks and leasing companies to create a new corporate structure, which is confidential, Zito said, but details of which will be released soon.
A third ship, SH Diana, is currently under construction at the same shipyard and is expected to be launched in February 2023. She will be christened mid-March 2023 in Piraeus and will offer routes in the Eastern Mediterranean, a nod to the origins of the original Swan Hellenic brand, born in the 1950s.
It will also stop in Sicily, Lisbon and Santiago de Compostela, Spain, before heading north to offer arctic routes.
SH Minerva and SH Vega will be based in Antarctica for the 2022/23 season, with Minerva delivering a 30-day circumnavigation of Antarctica to Dunedin, New Zealand, in the footsteps of Robert Scott, 110 years after his ill-fated expedition.
After which, they will all offer different routes around the world, with the SH Vega following a route up the West African coast, Zito said:
“We did intensive scouting last year, there are areas where no one goes, there is a long stretch of 1,000 km between Congo and Gabon which consists of three protected areas, including the national park of South Loango and the Conkouati reserve”.
All three vessels are partially battery-powered, allowing noise-free navigation and increasing the chances of seeing marine life.