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Norwegian tycoon is a hero in Philly

The high-profile Norwegian businessman who controls industrial concern Aker Kvaerner was himself on hand over the weekend when Kvaerner's shipyard in Philadelphia christened its new containership for Matson Navigation.

The high-profile Norwegian businessman who controls industrial concern Aker Kvaerner was himself on hand over the weekend when Kvaerner's shipyard in Philadelphia christened its new containership for Matson Navigation. It was finally party time, despite heavy losses.

Aker Kvaerner's Kjell Inge Roekke shares a laugh with Matson captain Katherine Sweeney, who's wearing a traditional lei used at all special Hawaiian occasions.

The vessel was handed over a month late and has left Aker Kvaerner with around NOK 400 million in losses, but the occasion marked the first time a commercial ship had been built at the Philadelphia yard in 34 years.

"It's nice to be able to deliver a ship," said Kjell Inge Roekke before ceremonies began. "It's not so nice to deliver it at a loss."

Flags nonetheless waved and Roekke was treated like a veritable hero who, along with hefty US subsidies, saved the yard and jobs there from shutdown.

Granted, federal law requires Matson to build vessels that will sail between US ports at US shipyards. The new USD 110 million Manukai, which will sail between Honolulu and US West Coast ports, could have been built in Korea or other non-US yards for a fraction of its cost.

But Roekke was determined to get Kvaerner's Philadelphia shipyard out of the doldrums, and the Philadelphia ship cost millions less than another ship built in the US 10 years ago. Roekke personally involved himself in securing the yard new contracts, boosted its work force and sent European experts who could help teach them how to build ships.

Workers responded and one even asked Roekke to autograph his safety helmet after Saturday's christening. "He's a great guy," said Dave D'Angelo. "We'd all be standing in the unemployment line if it wasn't for him."