Confusion over two new expedition ships | Polarjournal
As late as April 2020, the “Project Vega” for Russian river cruise company Vodohod was in the order books of the Helsinki Shipyard Oy. (Photo: Helsinki Shipyard)

Russian river cruiser Vodohod and British cruise company Swan Hellenic say they commissioned two expedition ships with ice class P5 from the Finnish shipyard Helsinki Shipyard Oy. A closer look shows that these are the same ships.

On June 27, 2019, the Finnish shipyard’s website stated: ʺHelsinki Shipyard Oy and Russia’s largest river cruise company Vodohod Ltd today signed a contract for two luxury expedition cruise ships. During the spring and autumn seasons, the vessels will be used in areas with high latitudes in both Arctic and Antarctic waters as well as in tropical waters. Planning work for the project has already begun at Helsinki Shipyard Oy. The first ship is scheduled to be delivered in August 2021 and the second in January 2022.”

But in an overnight action in October 2020, the shipyard’s first ship suddenly was called “SH Minerva”. This was also communicated by the shipyard Helsinki Shipyard Oy. (Photo: Helsinki Shipyard)

On April 29, 2020, another statement by the shipyard says: “The production of Vodohod Russia’s first expedition cruise ship begins at Helsinki Shipyard Oy. Production of the first of the two luxury expedition cruise ships ordered by Vodohod began on April 27, 2020. The cutting of the steel began on schedule and under safe conditions despite the ongoing global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.”

The “SH Minerva” is already under construction at the Helsinki Shipyard Oy and is scheduled to be delivered to Swan Hellenic in summer 2021. (Photo: Helsinki Shipyard)

On October 21, 2020, a press release read: “Helsinki Shipyard Oy announced that it has entered into a contractual agreement with the Swan Hellenic expedition cruise line for a luxury expedition cruise ship. The order follows an earlier order from two cruise ships, which the new line placed at the shipyard in early 2020.”

It is one of three ships ordered for the revived Swan Hellenic brand. The first two ships can accommodate 152 guests and a third larger ship can accommodate 192 passengers.

Are now the ships for Vodohod or Swan Hellenic

Andrea Zito, CEO of Swan Hellenic, replied in an interview when asked if the two ships were not intended for Vodohod: “No, they were never intended for Vodohod. But Vodohod has contacts with the shipyard in Helsinki, so there has been speculation that the ships are for the Vodohod brand. Someone drew this conclusion, no one denied it, so the rumour continued to circulate. But that never has been the case.”

All possibilities are used to make the boat trip as pleasant as possible for guests. (Photo: Helsinki Shipyard)

Swan Hellenic clearly is a brand for the international market, mainly in English, i.e. with the UK, USA and Australia as essential source markets. Andre Zito: “But I also don’t know why Germans, French, Italians or Chinese should not feel comfortable on board our ships with an interesting product with interesting destinations. On-board language will be English, but the orientation is international.”

Andrea Zito’s statement is not true! The business with the two ships was definitely initiated by Vodohod. Why and how the contract change came about at Helsinki Shipyard Oy leaves some speculation unanswered.

So it won’t be Russian! Confusion was caused by the initial announcement of Helsinki Shipyard Oy with the news that they had commissioned the ships from Vodohod and sold them to Russia. But who knows, maybe everything will be different again. We’ll keep you posted …

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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