A CRUISE ferry operator has announced it will close its North Tyneside to Norway route with the loss of 340 jobs.
DFDS Seaways, which took over the loss-making route between Tyneside and Bergen-Haugesund-Stavanger in 2006, said rising oil prices and the economic slowdown have damaged the route's viability.
The decision to cancel the route from September 1 will result in the direct loss of 270 jobs on the ms Queen of Scandinavia ship, as well as 70 jobs in land-based services in Denmark, Norway and the UK.
John Crummie, UK managing director for DFDS Seaways, said the company will continue to provide a full service until September 1.
"This situation will naturally be handled in a caring and respectful fashion towards our employees and recognising different national procedures," he said.
"In the UK we are starting the dialogue with the employee representatives to clarify the situation."
Mr Crummie said the company had changed tonnage on the route, the staffing on board and the level of service provided to try and revive the loss-making route.
But he added: "The result in 2007 fell well short of expectation.
"The current financial development has fallen below the level required to continue operating the service.
"Dramatically increasing oil prices, downward price pressure from over capacity in the travel market place and the current economic slowdown are burdening the service.
"We have taken the difficult decision to close the service from September 1 after the summer season.
"We will continue with a full service until September 1, and we hope that this gives enough time for our valued customers and partners to adapt to the new situation and we apologise for any inconvenience caused.
"We have now created a platform to concentrate resources on improving the financial results and development of our routes to Holland from Newcastle, Denmark from Harwich and within Scandinavia."
In 2006 DFDS Seaways stopped serving Sweden when the ms Princess of Scandinavia was taken off service and the Copenhagen to Oslo service ships stopped calling at Helsingborg.