Norway is justifiably proud of its maritime cluster, a unique agglomeration of shipping and offshore manufacturing enterprises & service providers that has proved remarkably successful over the last 20 years. Its constituents make up an internationally competitive, expertise-based industry that boasts an unrivalled degree of professionalism.
The cluster's winning formula is not least due to the proximity of its players - many of whom are world leaders in their fields - and excellent communications. The synthesis achieved through working closely together in business partnerships ensures world-class service and expertise in a broad range of products and services, such as the delivery of turnkey projects involving multiple suppliers, research and development (R&D), marketing initiatives and cooperation between the public and private sectors. A demanding domestic market has also been a fundamental driving force in the cluster's achieving its globally competitive standing.
Long experience in the market, resourcefulness and sharp minds have all contributed to the development of the cluster's roster of:
- Shipowners and ship managers
- Shipbuilding and repair yards
- Equipment manufacturers
- Research and education centres
- National authorities, local port authorities and seafarer organizations
- Maritime software producers
- Marine underwriters
- Specialist lawyers
- Ship finance houses
- Freight forwarding and logistics companies
Products and services geared to the requirements of shipowners running vessels in tough markets have also driven the need for constant innovation and exacting standards.
Three umbrella organizations - the Norwegian Maritime Exporters' Association (NME), Norwegian Maritime Suppliers (NML) and the Maritimt Forum of Norway - encourage dialogue and cooperation among their membership to help build consensus around standards and to explore new market opportunities and trends. They also lobby for the best governmental policies relating to the industry at home, promote its best interests abroad and act as a first point of contact for export customers needing advice on choosing the most suitable Norwegian suppliers or potential partners.
The Principals - Shipowners
At the end of 2002, Norwegian shipping companies owned or operated a foreign-going fleet of some 1,670 vessels totalling some 46 million deadweight tonnes. The value of the fleet, the second-largest nationally flagged fleet in the world, is estimated at around USD 20 billion. Although a handful of Norwegian shipowners are active in the mainstream crude oil, product tanker and bulk carrier sectors, most focus on specialized ships such as gas (LPG/LNG) tankers, Ro-Ro ferries & car carriers, cruise ships, trawlers and offshore supply vessels. In addition, the world's two leading chemical carrier specialists are Norwegian. Close cooperation between yards, ship's gear outfitters and maritime R&D institutions, as well as between finance and maritime authorities, has been instrumental in creating Norway's dynamic maritime community. The Norwegian shipowning industry is a demanding customer of Norwegian maritime businesses - in a market characterized by fierce competition both at home and abroad.
Design and Delivery - Shipyards
Technologically-advanced vessels are the hallmark of Norwegian shipyards - which deliver modern fishing vessels, cruise ships, cable layers, offshore supply ships and all types of merchant tonnage to clients worldwide. Yards offer custom-made ships designed with the latest CAD/CAM technologies and know-how to fulfil clients' unique requirements. In addition to newbuilding, facilities are also engaged in ship conversion and repair, along with constructing all manner of topsides and submersible structures for use in the offshore sector in the North Sea and elsewhere.
Hardware Hounds - Ship's Gear Manufacturers
Around 300 small and medium-sized companies and five large corporations supply high-quality, sophisticated products and systems to the shipping, offshore, fisheries and freight logistics sectors worldwide. Design innovation - particularly in niche areas ranging from high-tech propulsion systems to state-of-the-art electronics for navigation and positioning - is often inspired by engineers from private concerns collaborating with research establishments to brainstorm and develop leading-edge solutions.
Middlemen and Market Watchers - Shipbrokers
Norwegian shipbrokers help devise and market new transport concepts and act as middlemen in the sale and purchase of trading vessels, newbuildings and ships destined for the scrapyards. Other specialized brokers work commercially on behalf of shipowners and charterers broking time charters and voyage fixtures for vessels in the different wet and dry commodities shipment markets. Norwegian brokerages are among the world leaders in their analyses of these markets and, renowned for their business acumen, are experts in spotting new opportunities for their clients. Leading names such as Lorentzen & Stemoco, OJ Libaek and Partners, Fearnleys, PF Bassoe and RS Platou & Co. command the trust and respect of shipowners worldwide and offer competitive rates compared to brokers located in more expensive locations.
Hands-On Responsibility - Ship Managers
With their long experience in shipping and emphasis on quality, many foreign shipowners choose to place their vessels with Norwegian ship managers. There are all-round and specialized agencies covering manning, commercial and technical fleet management. One Norwegian player, Barber Ship Management AS, is among the top ship management companies in the world. Many overseas ship managers also employ experienced Norwegian nationals. Norwegian shipowners are also active ship managers, controlling vessels on behalf of third-party principals worldwide and running commercial pooling arrangements in various shipping sectors.
The Money Men - Shipping Finance
Norwegian finance institutions and banks cover 10 percent of the global maritime banking market, and have substantial experience in putting together complex project finance solutions for shipowners and other maritime interests, including long and short-term credits, junior and senior loans, bridge and mezzanine financing, and pre-delivery financing. Two industry leaders with impressive shipping portfolios are Nordea Bank and Den norske Bank (DnB). Nordea was formed from a merger between Christiania Bank of Norway, Finland's Merita Bank, Nordbanken of Sweden and Unidanmark of Denmark and took a lead role in syndicating USD 5.8 billion worth of shipping loans in 2002. The bank relocated its main syndication desk to Oslo in 2003. DnB was awarded the "Best Ship Financing House of the Year" in 2000 by the readers of Lloyd's List and with a staff of over 60 shipping experts, it aims to be the preferred provider of a comprehensive range of commercial and investment banking services to high credit quality Norwegian and international shipping and offshore clients.
The Norwegian export credit agency, Eksportfinans, works mainly to fund business in the international capital markets and has had international ratings since the early 1980s. Current ratings are Aaa from Moody's, AAA from Fitch IBCA and AA+ from Standard & Poor's. This first-class borrower status allows Eksportfinans to provide medium to long-term export financing on favourable terms to Norwegian ships' gear exporters and their clients. An important milestone was reached in January 2002 when a government-supported ship financing programme was established in Norway, as well as in the main shipbuilding nations within the OECD. In Norway, Eksportfinans was given the management responsibility for the scheme on behalf of the Ministry of Trade and Industry. As a result of this programme, ships can now be financed with government support, in line with other capital goods.
Legal Eagles - Maritime Lawyers
Norway offers in-depth expertise and considerable international experience in the field of maritime law. Professional fees are also very competitive compared to other shipping centres such as London and New York. Law firms offering specialized insight in shipping include Wikborg, Rein & Co.; Schjødt; Strand & Hatling; and Kluge. The latter two are
also members of the International Ship Suppliers' Association. One Norwegian law firm offering shipping counsel, Thommessen Krefting Greve, recently received international recognition when it won the Chambers "Law Firm of the Year" award in the face of fierce competition from leading law firms in Europe. For its part, law firm Simonsen Føyen is a leading name in ship finance and advises Norwegian and international banks, along with financial institutions.
A License to Sail - Classification
Strict rules apply to both the building and the operation of blue water vessels, along with the equipment with which the vessels are fitted. Classification societies such as Det Norske Veritas, one of the world's largest with 300 offices in 100 countries, are responsible for ensuring compliance with regulations for health and safety for newbuildings and new ship designs, as well as for safeguarding high standards of maintenance onboard. Det Norske Veritas is authorized to act on behalf of 130 national maritime authorities and, by virtue of its outstanding record, is an important leader in the push for quality shipping.
Covering Risk at Sea - Marine Insurance
Norway's marine underwriters have a strong domestic base but are also active worldwide offering standard and tailored insurance products to shipowners and offshore companies. Foreign shipowners account for around 80 % of their total premium income. Gard, rated Api by Standard & Poor's, is the second-largest protection-and-indemnity (P&I) marine mutual in the International Group of P&I clubs, insuring around 100 million gross tonnes of ships. Together with compatriot club Skuld it covers more than 20 percent of the world fleet. The Central Union of Marine Underwriters of Norway (CEFOR), an umbrella organization and think-tank, coordinates its 11 members around key issues in the marine insurance industry at home and abroad.
Brain Power - Maritime Research and Development
The importance of Norway's shipping industry in the national economy has prompted the growth of a significant maritime research establishment, spearheaded by the Marine Technology Centre at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim. Researchers and research facilities in the fields of design and hydrodynamics, shipbuilding, operations, and logistics have won international acclaim. R&D and consultancy services are also exported to shipping companies and authorities worldwide, often in partnership with the Research Council of Norway. On the business side, the Centre for International Economics and Shipping - a joint venture between The Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration and the Institute for Research in Economics and Business Administration - is responsible for research and high-level teaching within the fields of international trade and commercial shipping.
The Rules of the Game - National Authorities
There is extensive national and international legislation governing maritime activity - with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) as the chief independent body governing shipping and the International Labour Union, the United Nations agency, governing working conditions for seafarers. The Norwegian Ministry of Trade and Industry is the top authority in charge of legislation and policy for the Norwegian maritime sector. Other important parties are the Norwegian Pollution Control Authority, the Norwegian National and International Ship Registers, the Norwegian Maritime Directorate, the Norwegian Coastal Administration and the Norwegian Seafarers' Union.
Building Competence - Maritime Education
To combat the current worldwide lack of qualified seamen, and to maintain enough officers and masters to man its fleet in the future, Norway places a priority on attracting and educating high-calibre young people in the maritime sector. In addition to two dedicated maritime colleges at Stavanger and Arendal, and the world-renowned maritime faculty at NTNU, other institutions and colleges provide further education in maritime engineering, seamanship and general shipping studies. Of these, BI Norwegian Shipping Academy is developing a leading role in shaping and maintaining executive competence in international shipping and logistics. It also offers international programmes and has partnerships and associations with overseas institutions such as the Arab Academy for Science and Technology in Egypt. National and international agencies such as the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development provide finance for the academy's international projects. Other Norwegian educational initiatives overseas include the Norwegian Maritime Training Center in Manila and courses for seafarers in China.
Expertise for Hire - Shipping Consultants
In addition to local branches of the world's leading management consultancy companies, top-class Norwegian shipping experts with many years of combined international maritime experience offer consultancy services ranging from project development to logistics to safety and environmental audits for clients worldwide at competitive rates. A number of smaller consultancies offer public relations and marketing communications services to maritime clients at home and abroad at fees well below those of larger agencies in bigger cities elsewhere in the world.
Digital Dynamics - Maritime Software Providers
Norway has established itself as a leading provider of maritime software solutions for use onboard vessels, ship-to-shore communications, Internet technologies and applications designed specifically for day-to-day shipping company management.
Trade News - The Maritime Media
The shipping industry's leading English-language trade publication TradeWinds is a subsidiary of one of Norway's top media companies, Norges Handels og Sjøfartstidene, which also produces the country's most respected business daily, Dagens Naeringsliv. TradeWinds is renowned for its independent reporting of the latest shipping industry deals and market news. Sister newspaper Upstream covers the offshore maritime sector, as does Scandinavian Oil & Gas Magazine, a privately-owned bimonthly periodical. Skipsrevyen is the Nordic countries' leading monthly tabloid covering all aspects of the shipping industry and oil & offshore markets in Norwegian. It also publishes the monthly Norwegian Shipping & Fishing Industry News (Norsk Skipsfart & Fiskeri Aktuelt) and an annual English-language directory, Shipbuilding Norway - Norwegian Marine Industries. The Norwegian Institute of Mercantile Data also publishes a comprehensive directory, Norwegian Marine Equipment, with comprehensive details of Norwegian exporters and their foreign representatives. All these publications carry advertising by Norwegian and foreign companies.