Norwegian shipowner Ostensjo Rederi has clinched unusual contracts for two vessels in the Arctic.

The 4,900-dwt platform supply vessel Edda Ferd (built 2013) and 85-loa multipurpose support unit Edda Sun (built 2009) have been chartered by mining company Store Norske as it shuts down a mining camp in the Svalbard archipelago, in what is described as “one of the most ambitious environmental projects in Norway”.

The mine at Svea Nord was closed in March 2020.

A new camp was established at Kapp Amsterdam, with a workshop and a power station, Store Norske chief executive Jan Morten Ertsaas said.

“In August, the airport closes down, so we need vessels to transport to and from Longyearbyen. In addition, today’s camp will be demolished, including places to stay, so the barracks will be moved from land to vessel,” he added.

The ships will be used until December 2022.

Ostensjo CEO Kristian Helland Vea said: “This is an exotic job for our offshore vessels that are usually in the North Sea. It is nice that the vessels are used in a project with great environmental benefits and this shows that existing tonnage can be adapted and used across segments and operations.”

Chief commercial officer Hilde Svendsen said the company has extensive experience with this type of work.

She added that the capacity of both ships is being expanded to meet the requirements of the project.

After almost 100 years of coal production, the mining community in Svea is being returned to the wild.

Leaving no trace?

Buildings and infrastructure will be removed, including roads, tank facilities, power stations and the airport.

When the area is abandoned, the glaciers and mountain sides should appear as unaffected as possible, Ostensjo explained.

“The workers will go on a 14-day shift, and now we have ensured that they are well taken care of,” says Gudmund Lovli, project manager at Store Norske.

The project is a major investment, and is financed annually through the central government budget up to 2024.

“This is a unique project for Ostensjo Rederi. We are very pleased to have reached agreement with Store Norske, and excited to be part of such an ambitious environmental project,” said Vea.

Ertsaas added: “It was important for us to use a solid shipping company and [we] have emphasised that the crew on these vessels have Norwegian working conditions. Now we can complete the project in a good way.”

Store Norske, established in 1916, has been a cornerstone company on Svalbard for more than a hundred years.

Svea Nord was the largest coal mine in the archipelago.

It opened in 2001. A coal seam thickness of up to six metres allowed an annual production of 3m tonnes.