That's The Way It Is
Norway's love and attachment to the sea and maritime matters are well known. Perhaps unlike any other maritime nation, Norwegian's thrive on working in unison to consistently deliver technical solutions to shipbuilding and ship owning/operating problems. This is the only way to explain how a country of little more than five million inhabitants has become such a driving force in an international maritime market.
Norway boasts the world's third largest merchant fleet and the second largest national flag. Norwegians control 10.5 percent of the world's crude oil tankers, 19.1 percent of the world's gas carriers, and 18.9 percent of the world's chemical tankers.
One-third of the Norway fleet flies a foreign flag, and while the powers in charge would prefer 100 percent Norwegian flag, they realize that as long as a ship is Norwegian-controlled, it will equate to quality at sea. The Norwegian Shipowners Association motto: "As many as the Norwegian flag as possible, as many as foreign flag as necessary." Norwegian shipowners are widely regarded as owning and operating high-specialization, high-value fleets, and for spotting and filling unique transportation niches. The country has led the way in harsh-environment FPSO design and production, as well as a leader in the design and promotion of unique vessel configurations such as the Pick-Up Cat, and the transport of water via large "bladder" bags. Issues driving the shipping Norwegian market now include a new taxation scheme which was adopted in 1996 to cater to the Norwegian maritime cluster. Specifically, it encouraged Norwegian owners to invest in new technology, and to induce Norwegian shipowners to stay in Norway. To date, the initiative seems to have worked, as maritime employment, the Norwegian fleet (in both numbers and value), and the shipbuilding orderbook at Norwegian yards are all up significantly. OECD: When & If Norwegians have been and continue to be openly critical of the U.S. for not ratifying the OECD agreement to eliminate shipbuilding subsidies, as the issue of subsidization is becoming critical for the long-term survivability of Norwegian yards. While Norwegian shipyards are awash in orders now, a minority of the Norwegian government has threatened complete elimination of shipbuilding subsidies, OECD agreement in force or not. Also, while subsidy levels have recently dropped in Norway, the subsidization level of its main competitors in Europe has remained steady at nine percent.
The shipowners are similarly unhappy with the lack of an OECD agreement, reasoning that cheap ships simply throw freight prices further out of whack. They maintain that tonnage could and should be regulated through natural market forces, and that subsidies continue to create an unlevel playing field.
Norway's shipbuilding business has a vested interest in the successful implementation of the OECD agreement, but not in order to compete with the Korea's and Japan's.
Norwegian shipbuilding, which was last active in the building of large tankers in the early to mid-70s, is today defined by a tight group of smaller, lean yards which exist building highly specialized vessels, usually in concert with Norwegian buyers. The oil and gas business has been a particular boom to Norwegian shipyards, and perhaps no other development best embodies Norwegian advanced technology in this area than the successful design, development and use of the Ramform vessel (please see related information, page 80). Designed by naval architect Roar Ramde and built by Langsten Shipyard, the Ramform's hull strikes a unique profile on the waterway, in both looks and performance. It's pointed bow and wide stern create a hull form with is patented around the world, and which PGS holds the rights to for many applications. The vessel, according to PGS Exploration — which has invested heavily in the design — has advanced the job of seismic operations immeasurably in j u s t a few years, by allowing more streamers to be pulled at once, and providing for a faster, bigger and more economical survey. For example, the triple screw M/V Ramform Challenger — powered by four BRG-6 diesel engines — can pull up to 16 6,000-m streamers. "From a shipbuilders standpoint, we had to have a little faith and not be bound by tradition," said Oddvar Skjegstad, group managing director, The Langsten Group. "For one thing, not very many yards in Norway have the capability to build a vessel with a 131.2-ft. (40-m) beam. This is a typical type of vessel where a Norwegian yard can be competitive. It is a high-value, special purchase vessel." The unique vessel required a unique shipbuilding solution, considering the width of Langsten's covered building area is only 95 ft. (29 m) wide. The solution: the hull was built to a 29- m maximum and the remainder of the hull was pre-fabricated as "add-ons. Sticking to the unorthodox aura of the vessel, it is interesting to note that it is launched bow first.
Kvaerner is another type of Norwegian.