River CruisePlan calls for six new vessels, starting with two in 2017

Viking enters Mississippi River market

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Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Viking Cruises Chairman Torstein Hagen on Tuesday announced that New Orleans would serve as the homeport for Viking's first foray into the North American river cruising market, with six new vessels slated to be built over the course of three years, starting with two that will set sail in 2017.

The six new vessels will be built in U.S. shipyards and crewed by U.S. citizens at a cost of $90 million to $100 million per vessel. The vessels will be owned by Los Angeles-based investment management firm Tennenbaum Capital Partners and will be time-chartered to Viking in compliance with maritime laws.

The first two vessels are scheduled to deploy in 2017, with an additional two launching in each of the following two years, for a total of six new boats in the first three years. The riverboats will carry up to 300 passengers and will feature luxury amenities.

Viking's new cruises will sail along the Mississippi River from New Orleans, where they will operate from docking facilities near the French Quarter. Viking's new venture is expected to result in the creation of 416 new jobs for Louisiana-based operations and crews, an additional 368 new indirect jobs, for a total of more than 780 new jobs in southeast Louisiana, according to the Louisiana Economic Development (LED).

The project was finalized after Jindal and Hagen met at Viking's operational headquarters in Switzerland last month to discuss the project.

"We're proud to welcome Viking River Cruises to New Orleans," Jindal said in a statement. "This investment will not only bring great new jobs to our state, but it will also showcase Louisiana and the Mississippi River to the rest of the world ... Viking could have chosen another port anywhere in the world, but chose Louisiana because of our state's outstanding business climate, workforce and port infrastructure."

Viking first teased the idea of launching Mississippi River cruises in 2013, when the company proposed bringing a version of its latest European river vessels, the Viking Longships, to the U.S. It is not clear whether these vessels will look like the company's European-style ships or something more akin to traditional U.S. paddlewheelers. Though, Hagen did suggest the vessels would be more modern.

"We are excited about the prospect of bringing modern river-cruising to the Mississippi," Hagen said in a statement. "Together with our U.S. partners, we take great pride in the economic benefit that river cruising provides to the regions our guests visit, from the shipbuilders to the local businesses."

LED began discussing the Mississippi River project with Viking in November 2013. To secure the project, the State of Louisiana offered Viking an incentive package that includes a $4.5 million performance-based grant for site preparation at the company's docking locations in Louisiana.

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