The cruise liner Ocean Gala. Photo: Allie_Caulfield - Flickr. CC BY 2.0
The cruise liner Ocean Gala was built in the early 1980s. Credit: Allie_Caulfield - Flickr:2011-03-05 03-13 Madeira 121 Funchal, Hafen, CC BY 2.0

Cruise ship to be turned into refugee housing

6:11 min

A cruise ship with about 1,800 beds may become accommodation for asylum seekers in the near future. But it is still not clear where the ship will dock.

On Wednesday, the Swedish Migration Agency announced that it is about to sign a contract with the company US Shipmanagers that will turn the cruise liner Ocean Gala into a refugee reception centre.

"It means that we will access pretty good accommodation for a number of people, which we need. One more piece in the jigsaw to get new housing," Willis Åberg, section manager for housing at the Migration Agency, told Swedish Radio's local channel in Västernorrland.

He said they are hoping to sign the contract this week or next, adding that "we have been fighting for a while to make this happen". After that, the company has two months to find a harbour where it can dock, and the permission from the local authorities to do so, he said.

But speaking to Radio Sweden, Kjell Tandberg, one of the Norwegian managing partners of US Shipmanagers, said that technically, a vessel does not need a permission to dock at a harbour.

"It would be nice if we do have it, but as a vessel, you can technically lay in a harbour without having a (planning) permit."

"We are looking at several ports, and I cannot disclose how far we are in the different negotiations, but it will happen, and I think the community that will host it will be very happy," he said.

More specifically which harbours and towns they are currently talking to, Tandberg did not want to reveal, but Härnösand in Northern Sweden has been mentioned in the media. But the local council there has said that they are not interested.

Kjell Tandberg told Radio Sweden that they have previous experience from ships that host large number of people long-term. After the hurricane Katrina in the US they had ships housing students in Louisiana and New Orleans for up to 14-15 months.

"Prolonged stay is not a problem, the vessel will be in port, there is ample opportunity to go ashore. But one of the advantages of being on a vessel is that compared to a land-based facility, maybe remote from people, a ship has facilities on board, they have the restaurants for eating, they have exercise rooms, they have sort of entertainment, they have places for education, for school if necessary, and everything is on one place," he said.

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