Fixed-wing aircraft on final approach to Svea. (Foto: Torbjørn Pedersen)
So far Svea has not been counted among the permanent research communities in Svalbard. But this may be about to change. Business Developer Pål Berg in Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani (SNSK) eyes a great potential for research and higher education within the settlement, which population will shrink significantly in 2016 as production from the Svea Nord mine is discontinued while the inauguration of the Lunckefjell mine has been put off.
«Our biggest advantage is capacity. We have plenty of dorm space and storage room, and we have a large deep water port that is usually available,» Berg says. He estimates a future average presence in Svea of 50-100, including technical staff, visitors and researchers, down from roughly 200 today.
The Svea infrastructure includes an airfield that receives daily Dornier 228 flights, the «2002» dormitory which offers accommodation to researchers and visitors, conference rooms, indoor and outdoor storage space, a staffed canteen, cars and trucks, a 14-meter deep port with large capacity – and even a squash hall for leisure.
Berg says the price per research-day will be highly competitive, at least during the three-year coal production freeze starting in April 2016, although he does not see Svea as competing with the established research settlements Longyearbyen, Ny-Ålesund, Barentsburg and Hornsund.
Berg points to the thick and stabile sea ice that usually covers the Van Miljenfjorden during winter as a comparative advantage that may attract researchers from a range different fields, from ice physics and mechanics to marine biology, and Arctic technology to oceanography. Berg says industry-related Arctic research may find better working conditions in Svea than elsewhere in Svalbard.