"A small country at the edge of the world that aims to be the best in the world in the field of sea transport
So runs the mission statement of Norway's Seatralog initiative, an ongoing national research-and-development programme focusing on sea transport and logistics. The project is a collaboration between the Research Council of Norway, the Norwegian Shipowners' Association and the Norwegian Marine Technology Research Institute (Marintek), and its mission plainly echoes Norway's objective - embracing private companies providing products and services, and public bodies working within the maritime sector - to be the best in the world.
With a coastline stretching some 21,347 kilometres, Norwegians have been a people of the sea, building wooden boats for fishing and coastal transport, and later setting off into the unknown on voyages of exploration, for thousands of years. Their experience has certainly equipped them to be the best. The spirit of the Vikings lives on in the country's maritime-based industries, as Norway has capitalised on such rich maritime traditions to become a global industry leader. There are few countries in the world that can boast such a diversified industry, renowned for the exceptional quality of its products and services and the expertise of its engineers, naval architects and surveyors - each working under strict environmental regulations. The innovative approach of its executives further strengthens the industry's standing, from logistics and cargo-handling experts to shipbrokers and shipping marketers, working in the face of tough competition and often in turbulent trading environments, as the economic uncertainty following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the USA has amply demonstrated.
Exemplary environmental credentials
Since the sinking of the Erika off the French coast in 1999, the public at large has also become much more aware of shipping issues and, especially in Europe, there is a great deal of political pressure on the global shipping industry to clean up its act. The environmental realm is one in which Norway is a frontrunner, and it is a major contributor to the formulation of international maritime policies. Norway has long been a driving force in the continual hunt for new solutions to ensure safety and protect maritime biodiversity while at the same time streamlining efficiency. In addition, many ships in the world fleet will have to be renewed over the coming decade as vessels age and fail to meet the tough demands of classification societies, image-sensitive charterers and port-state control authorities. This represents both a challenge and an opportunity for Norwegian companies in their pursuit of cutting-edge solutions in design, propulsion, navigation and communications for a new generation of safe, strong ships.
The Norwegian government also fully backs the spirit of Seatralog's mission
A statement by the Ministry of Trade and Industry reads, "the government's objective is that Norway should remain an exemplary base for maritime industry" - for foreign companies as well as locally established enterprises. The department is committed to injecting capital and maintaining competence within the industry, and to maintaining a research-and-development base that will guarantee Norway's seat at the top table of the world's pre-eminent shipbuilders, ship's gear suppliers and providers of maritime-related services, as well as maintain the outstanding reputation of the Norwegian flag and Norwegian seafarers. Norwegians are also well known for their hands-on, no-nonsense, problem-solving approach, which makes Norway a great place to collaborate and do business - one reason why international customers come back to the same Norwegian suppliers again and again, confident in their ability to deliver solutions that are not only technologically advanced but also - in an industry where margins are constantly under pressure - cost-effective.