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Monthly Archives: December 2018 − News & Stories


Rock legend Robert Plant comes to Longyearbyen

There are still those who think that Longyearbyen is a lonely, silent place where a few coal miners and trappers live. Reality is quite different: there is a well-established and vibrant cultural scene. Next to some very active local clubs and artists, there is a number of festivals and events that have by now established international reputation. This includes the Jazz Festival and the Dark Season Blues Festival (both in the beginning of the polar night) and events such the Ski Marathon and Spitsbergen Marathon, which all attract large and still growing numbers of visitors from many different countries.

But rock legends who have filled the largest venues of the globe for decades do usually not have Longyearbyen on their tour plan. This will change in June 2019 when Robert Plant comes to Longyearbyen for two concerts. Plant became a rock legend with the band Led Zeppelin in the 1970s. Following “Zep’s” breakup in 1980, Plant has remained an active musician to this day.

On 27 and 29 June, Robert Plant and his band Sensational Space Shifters will be live on stage in the Kulturhuset in Longyearbyen. This is, according to Svalbardposten, a result of the work of a year of Jim Johansen and his company Walrus AS. A key factor for the success of the negotiations is said to be Plant’s personal curiousity about one of the northernmost concert locations in the world (possibly outstaged by Pyramiden – maybe they get the Rolling Stones on stage there in 2030 or so?).

Longyearbyen: The most expensive port in the world?

From 2019, large cruise ships will have to pay twice as high harbour fees in the port of Longyearbyen than they did this year. A few days ago, Longyearbyen’s harbour master Kjetil Bråten announced that the price increase is a tool to regulate mass tourism and at the same time to generate higher income. He would even like Longyearbyen to become “the most expensive port in the world” due to its remote location and the extraordinary operating costs. Ship tourism to Spitsbergen is on the rise: in 2016, 75,000 cruise passengers went ashore in Longyearbyen, compared to 15,000 in 2010.

The harbour fee Longyearbyen will in the future be based on the size of the ship. Ships with more than 100,000 gross registered tons will have to pay twice as much, namely 1.68 NOK (about 0.17 Euro) instead of 0.84 NOK per ton. In addition, the port will charge a fee of NOK 25 (approx. 2.60 Euro) per passenger instead of NOK 23.

Antigua vs cruise ship

Big ships, small ships: SV Antigua versus a cruise ship

This will affect, for example, the cruise liner MSC Preziosa, which, according to its own homepage, delights its 3,500 passengers with staircases decorated with “Swarovski diamonds”. MSC Preziosa has announced its arrival in Longyearbyen in 2019 and will then have to pay a total of 940.000 NOK (around 96,000 euros) more than in 2018.

Smaller boats will also be affected by the higher fees. But since the fee depends on the size of the boats the price increase is highest for the large cruise ships. In addition, preference will be given to ships whose passengers support the local economy on their shore leaves.

However, harbour master Kjetil Bråten believes that the large luxury ships will not necessarily be deterred by the higher fees. This is not the primary goal. According to Bråten, it is rather a question of finding a balance between regulating mass tourism and generating the income needed to develop the port infrastructure and promote the local economy.

Who knows, perhaps MSC Preziosa will have to scratch a few diamonds from the railing to pay the port dues in Longyearbyen?

Interesting side note: According to a survey amongst 739 readers conducted by the local newspaper Svalbardposten, 60 percent agree with the statement that Longyearbyen should no longer accept cruise ships at all.

Source: Svalbardposten

Evacuations in Longyearbyen due to avalanche risk

It has almost become a painful tradition: the evacuation of dwelling houses in Longyearbyen at times of avalanche risk. The white danger was brought back into public attention very abruptbly in December 2015 when a snow avalanche from the mountain Sukkertoppen destroyed a number of houses and killed two people. Further houses were destroyed during another avalanche in February 2017; this time, it was only a matter of luck that nobody was hurt.

Since then, measures are taken to prevent further accidents, including rather drastic ones. Avalanche protection constructions have been established on the slopes of Sukkertoppen. The destroyed houses were not repaired. On the contrary, nearby houses are now regularly evacuated at times of avalanche risk. Depending on the risk at each individual address, some houses are only evacuated when there is an acute risk, while others are closed during the whole avalanche season.

On Thursday (29 November), an avalanche warning was issued on varsom based on weather forecasts that predicted a lot of snow. Consequently, the Sysselmannen reacted by issuing evacuations for a number of houses.

Longyearbyen Lawine Evakuierungskarte

Evacuation map of December 2017. The houses closed last Thursday were within the same area.

Some evacuations have already been lifted based on a new avalanche risk evaluation by NVE, the Norwegian authority responsible for managing avalanche risks (who release warnings on varsom.no). Others will be kept up during the whole avalanche season. Visit the Sysselmannen’s website for information on which addresses are concerned.

Nach einer neuen Gefahreneinschätzung durch NVE sind die Evakuierungen teilweise bereits wieder aufgehoben worden. Besonders gefährdete Häuser in den Wegen 222 und 226 werden aber von nun an über den gesamten Winter gesperrt bleiben. Genaue Informationen zu den betroffenen Adressen gibt es bei Sysselmannen.

It is up to those concerned to find new accommodation – not an easy task considering the difficult housing market in Longyearbyen.

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News-Listing live generated at 2018/December/14 at 13:37:09 Uhr (GMT+1)
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