Viking expects construction of its new boats to begin soon

Viking Cruise Lines, which plans to begin docking in Hannibal within the next year or two, may pay for a portion of the docking infrastructure its boats will need.

"We are negotiating a cost-share agreement right now," said Jeff LaGarce, Hannibal city manager.

While terms of the agreement are still being discussed, LaGarce said Viking could wind up making annual contributions based on passenger landing figures.

"I can't add too much more about it, but it will be good for the city," he said.

This is not the first time that the possibility of a cost-share agreement between the city and Viking has been raised. In late March 2016 the Courier-Post reported that LaGarce was exploring such an agreement.

Viking previously requested a special docking barge, at an estimated cost of $384,000, to accommodate its 410-foot boats. Shortly thereafter, Viking announced it had reconsidered its plans to cruise the Mississippi River. By the time Viking notified city officials that it would indeed be cruising the Mississippi River, the city's docking plans on the renovated riverfront had been finalized.

"Our riverfront plans called for two docking ports, with or without Viking Cruises," LaGarce said. "It's great that Viking has announced their intentions to move forward on their Mississippi River project, but it didn't change our design plans whatsoever. We had designed two docking ports initially, knowing they were coming. When they announced they were aborting their Mississippi River initiative last fall we continued to move forward with those two docking ports. Now that they've reengaged, things are no different. They will use one of the two docking ports we're constructing."

LaGarce said he recently spoke with a Viking representative, who told him that construction of the initial riverboats had not yet started, but was expected to begin soon.

Viking initially announced in 2015 that it intended to operate six riverboats on the Mississippi River by 2021. The Europe-based company said each of the riverboats would make 19 excursions on the river, docking in Hannibal for durations ranging from 6-11 hours each.

The city was notified by a consultant working with the company in late November 2017 that Viking had decided to scrap its plans for the Mississippi River.

In October of this year Hannibal Mayor James Hark announced that Viking had again reconsidered its plans and would be coming. He said the company had "cleared the hurdles" it had previously faced.

Hark said this fall that the first Viking boat is not expected to arrive in Hannibal until late 2021 or 2022.



danny.henley@courierpost.com