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Why cruise ships may become a thing of the past in Norway's most famous fjords

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected]
Why cruise ships may become a thing of the past in Norway's most famous fjords
Cruise ships could become a thing of the past in Norway's most popular fjords. Pictured is the Nærøyfjord. Photo by Meriç Dağlı on Unsplash

Large cruise ships may be banned in Norway's UNESCO World Heritage fjords due to environmental policy. Politicians are trying to find a loophole so tourists can still visit the popular fjords via cruise ship. 

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Norway's parliament voted to adopt environmental legislation in 2018, that meant cruise ships and ferries would need to be emission-free to sail in the Norwegian World Heritage fjords, the Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord from 2026. 

Large parts of the Aurlandfjord are also considered part of the Nærøyfjord section of the world heritage site. UNESCO describes the beauty spots as "among the most scenically outstanding fjord areas on the planet".

Naturally, tens of thousands are drawn to Norway's fjords yearly, most arriving via cruise ship. 

The regulatory change that will put the emissions legislation into law is going through consultation. Aurland Municipality is one of several bodies providing feedback to the government. The consultation deadline is on October 3rd. 

After this, the government will decide how the law will be implemented in practice, climate minister Espen Barth Eide has told broadcaster TV 2.

Some local politicians in Aurland are against the proposal as they are concerned it could decimate the local tourism industry. 

Both Flåm, which sits on the Aurlandfjord, and Geiringer could see significant hits to the local economies as a result of the restrictions on cruise ships. 

The new laws could lead to almost 200 jobs and 109 million kroner in value creation being lost in the two villages, according to a report from Menon Economics.

"It is quite serious for Aurland municipality. Businesses will have to close, people will lose their jobs. Some people no longer dare to buy a home here because they don't know how long they will have a job," Monica Finden, leader of the Conservative Party in Aurland, told TV 2. 

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According to figures from Finden, cruises generate around 250 million kroner in Aurland. Locally, both the Labour Party and Conservative Party would consider scrapping the world heritage status to try and get around the law change. 

The parties would do so by requesting that the Aurlandfjord be excluded from the Nærøyfjord's World Heritage classification. 

However, local Green Party candidate Unni Underland is in favour of the legislation. 

"Cruises, on this scale, are not sustainable, either economically, socially or environmentally," she told TV 2. 

"We must take seriously the fact that many may lose their jobs. But this has been known since 2018, and we still have a few years to adjust. As of today, the problem here in the municipality is a lack of labour rather than unemployment," she added. 

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