The re-launch of the Western Norway to Newcastle ro-ro service has taken a step closer to reality following securement of investor backing for the project and the establishment of an interim company to formulate a business development plan supporting the venture.

The board of the new company, Nord Rederi, is expected to present the completed development plan to investors, including freight forwarding companies, in August, said Ole Warberg, chairman of the interim board.

Under a provisional proposal to re-instate the route, which was dropped by DFDS in 2008, the new service could begin in the first half of 2013. So far investors, located in Britain and in Norway’s western provinces, have pledged £15 million - £20 million to the project.

"The strong response from investors has surprised us. We now have an interim company and personnel in place to develop a business plan that we can present to our existing and new investors.

"Our goal to establish a viable shipping company to re-instate the route to Newcastle is on course," said Ståle Brandshaug, who is advising the project leaders.

The scale of the service will depend on the size and capacity of the vessels purchased to operate the route. The plan is to purchase or lease one or more ro-ro vessels with a capacity to transport up to 200 freight containers, 300 cars and 800 passengers, said Brandshaug.

The new service would operate on a route between Newcastle and Risavika, with port stops in Bergen and Haugesund.

"The loss of the DFDS service hit the economy of this western region hard, particularly for companies and their freight movements to the UK. Right now we need to find a balance between cargo and tourism traffic. This will determine the size of ship and cargo capacity required," said Warberg.

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