Norway's maritime clusters are diversifying out of the traditional fields of fisheries, offshore wind and oil and gas into the broader ocean industries
For Professor Torger Reve, who was instrumental in establishing Norway as a global maritime knowledge hub in the late 2000s, the low oil price in recent years was a clear call to the Norwegian cluster to diversify.
Writing in 2016, he called for a “wave of innovation with knowledge from the oil and gas industries to be applied in other ocean industries”, and said “when activity level falls in our most important industry, we need to look for new strategic opportunities in related industries.”
“What we see now is a reconceptualisation of the Norwegian industrial space from traditional maritime and offshore oil and gas industries to the much broader ocean industry concept,” he added.
Two years on, the larger Norwegian cluster and the regional sub-clusters are chock full of examples of Professor Reve’s wave of innovation, with private industry, public bodies and educational institutions working together to meet the ocean industry challenge.
As well as its maritime heritage and established expertise in the shipping, offshore energy and fishing sectors, one of Norway’s biggest strengths is summed up in a phrase heard many times when talking to Norwegian businesspeople – “We co-operate when we can and compete when we must”. Such an attitude encourages sharing of knowledge and expertise that benefits all parties involved and wider society and is illustrated in the maritime clusters.
Møre’s GCE Blue Maritime Cluster is one such example. Awarded the status of a global centre of expertise due to its unique market position and contribution to Norwegian value creation, the cluster aims to become a global hub for safe and sustainable commercialisation of advanced technology and operations at sea. The ‘blue’ aspect of the cluster relates to its view that the growing world population’s rapidly increasing demands for energy, food and minerals can be met by the ocean and that Norwegian companies are well-positioned to meet this challenge.
The cluster is overseen by a steering committee whose members include captains of industry such as Ulstein’s Gunvor Ulstein, Havila’s Njål Sævik and Brunvoll’s Odd Tore Finnøy, and its activities are evident in many areas – diversification into new sectors by builders and designers such as Ulstein, Rolls-Royce’s investments in digitalisation, Brunvoll’s push toward energy efficiency, to name but three examples.
NCE Maritime CleanTech aims to unite Norwegian expertise as a springboard to develop energy-efficient, environmentally friendly maritime solutions. Participants come from across the supply chain, including energy companies such as Equinor, shipyards such as Kværner, suppliers such as Westcon and design companies such as Leirvik. Academic institutions such as the University of Bergen and the Norwegian School of Economics also contribute their expertise alongside public bodies such as local government and the Norwegian Navy.
Speaking on the occasion of the Norwegian parliament’s resolution to make the World Heritage fjords emission-free, the cluster’s chief executive Hege Økland said “The decision on zero-emission fjords can secure our industry's position in this area, so that Norwegian business will be strengthened and we can provide green solutions to the rest of the world”
It certainly seems the cluster is well-positioned to assist in this. It has successfully produced projects such as MS Ampere, the world’s first battery-driven ferry, which crosses the Sognefjord and entered service in 2015. The ferry was built at the Fjellstrand yard, is operated by Norled and was classed by DNV GL. It has capacity for 260 passengers and 120 vehicles, is 80 m long by 20 m wide and is driven by two electric motors with an output of 450 kW apiece.
Another such example is Viking Energy, the first hybrid offshore support vessel with a dynamic positioning system. Modified into a plug-in battery hybrid vessel by Westcon and Eidesvik to meet charterer Equinor’s requirements, the vessel has attained average reductions in fuel consumption of between 16%-17% and as much as 28% when operating in dynamic-positioning mode.
Oil spill recovery
And even outside the formal clusters, Norwegian co-operation is evident in projects such as the Oil Spill Recovery Vessel Group (OSRV), established by Framo, Maritime Partner, Norbit Aptomar and Norlense to provide a turnkey solution for oil recovery.
Framo is a Bergen-based pump manufacturer; Maritime Partner is an Ålesund-based producer of high-speed rescue and patrol vessels; Norlense is based in Fiskebøl and produces oil spill containment booms; and Trondheim-based Norbit Aptomar makes safety and navigation equipment including infrared and radar systems.
By pooling their efforts, the four companies together act as a total systems supplier of safe, highly functional and well-tested technology that covers all aspects of spill response, from detection and containment to recovery, a spokesperson told Norwegian Solutions.
Aptomar’s radar performs the initial task of detecting a spill on the surface of the sea, with live data from its infrared sensors providing information on location, size, and heading. Maritime Partner’s high-speed vessels can deploy Norlense’s booms to contain the spill, with capability for 400 m of boom to be deployed by one person in just 20 minutes. When the booms are in place, Framo’s pumps can be brought into play with capacity to process 400,000 litres of oil per hour. The recovered oil can then be transferred to a tanker via Framo’s TransRec system.
So far, OSRV has had a heavy focus on Brazil, with the system delivered more than 30 times in that country alone by the time the oil crisis hit, the spokesperson said. With the return to activity of the market, OSRV will initially focus again on Brazil, anticipating a rise in demand for oil recovery services.
Cargo transport by UAV
Another is the Safer Logistics from Unmanned Logistics Helicopter project, which is investigating using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to transport cargo between offshore support vessels (OSVs) and installations.
Currently, transfers from vessels to rigs and other installations mostly rely on cranes, with issues such as wind, visibility, waves and other weather conditions presenting challenges.
The partners in the project are Fosnavåg-based Olympic Subsea, Sykkylven-based Griff Aviation, the Northern Research Institute (Norut) in Tromsø and Arendal-based Stable.
Olympic Subsea owns a fleet of 11 offshore construction vessels and is participating in the project as an “active development partner”; Griff Aviation develops and manufactures drones to carry heavy cargo and will be addressing the issue of ensuring the logistics helicopter can operate safely in rough weather; Norut, the project leader, has developed autonomous control systems for UAVs, has experience operating them in northern seas and will be ensuring the logistics helicopter has a high degree of automation for departure, landing and delivery of cargo; and Stable specialises in motion-compensation technology and will be developing a stable platform from which the logistics helicopter will take off and land on moving maritime platforms.
The engineering and technology department at The Arctic University of Norway, Norut’s majority shareholder, in Narvik is also lending its expertise to the project. Financial support is being provided by the Research Council of Norway