Port of Houston Authority Chairman Jim Edmonds, the PHA commissioners and staff on Wednesday, March 2, hosted a welcome reception for His Majesty King Harald V of Norway aboard the M/V Star Gazer as the vessel toured the Houston Ship Channel. The reception also was attended by several shipping industry executives and local elected officials.
As he congratulated Norway on the centennial celebration of its independence, PHA's Chairman Edmonds noted that Norway has an enviable reputation in maritime shipping.
"Even here on the Houston Ship Channel, Norwegian names are everywhere conducting business, such as Stolt-Nielsen, Odfjell, Aker Marine, Barwil Agencies, Skaugen and many others," Edmonds said. "They have played a great part in making Norway the Port of Houston's seventh largest trading partner."
Marianne Lie, Director General of the Norwegian Shipowner's Association, stated, "The United States today is the most important single market for Norwegian shipping. Norwegian ships calling the U.S. are carrying energy-related products, chemicals, passengers, cars, raw materials and dry cargo. The number of Norwegian-owned vessels sailing to and from United States' ports has increased consistently. Our ships made around 5,500 port calls in the U.S. last year, 550 of these here in Houston. This makes Houston the most important U.S. port for Norwegian shipping."
Lie added, "The U.S. is certainly also important to us in its regulatory and policy role. American rules and regulations apply to international shipping as most ships have the U.S. as part of their trading pattern. Furthermore, the U.S. has a leading role in the International Maritime Organization, where regulation for global shipping is made. The United States has lately been instrumental in reaching an efficient security regulation for the shipping industry in the IMO. The U.S. is also at the forefront with regard to safety and environmental issues in the IMO. I am pleased to say that Norway and the United States mostly see eye to eye on these issues. We are confident that our combined efforts will help strengthen the position of secure quality shipping in the global markets."
Bernt A. Netland, President Odfjell US Inc., stated, "The visit to the Port of Houston by His Majesty King Harald V is a great opportunity to focus on the port and simultaneously to demonstrate the strength and extent of the Norwegian Maritime presence in Houston.
The Norwegian maritime presence in the Port of Houston is quite extensive and very diverse. There is a manifold group of supply and equipment companies, shipbrokers
and agents, classification society, finance and insurance people and various ship service companies. Houston was visited by approximately 450 ships with Norwegian flag last year. For those of us who are in the petrochemical business, Houston is by far -- with no comparison -- the most important port on the American continent."
According to the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD), nearly three million tons of Norwegian cargo worth more than $759 million is shipped through the Port of Houston every year. Petroleum accounts for the highest tonnage but other cargoes include machinery, paper, wood, wire, cable and fish products.