The pioneering spirit of Norwegian owners and a rising fleet value bode well for the future
With the Norwegian fleet now the fifth most valuable in the world – rising to second when only offshore vessels are considered – and the foreign-going fleet having experienced steady growth in both tonnage and number of vessels in recent years, Norwegian shipowners can afford to be optimistic.
The Norwegian Shipowners' Association (NSA) anticipates positive market trends going forward in all sectors, and Norwegian owners have not been backward about pushing forward in areas such as sustainability and digitialisation.
As Norwegian School of Economics professor Roar Os Ådland said in the NSA’s annual report, “Norwegian shipowners have the ability to see the emergence of new niches and markets early on. That is an important skill in today’s market.”
A prime case study in this area is Wilhelmsen, whose chief executive Thomas Wilhelmsen disputed the oft-repeated claim that the maritime industry is conservative at a conference hosted by Norwegian bank DNB this year.
Pointing out that his own company has historically made big changes to stay competitive, such as changing from sail to steam, from steam to diesel and now embracing digitalisation, he said “It is more fun to be in the forefront of developing the maritime industry, than to be just someone who comes in later and adopts what everyone else is doing.”
And one doesn’t need to look hard for examples of the company’s pioneering spirit. In April this year Wilhelmsen, along with Kongsberg, announced the formation of Massterly, a joint venture that will design and operate autonomous vessels.
“Currently, we are at the very beginning of this development, but we see and believe there will be a significant market for these types of services in the near future,” said Mr Wilhelmsen.
“At first, shortsea shipping will use autonomous ships. This also implies increased competitiveness to move transport from road to sea. The gains are increased efficiency and reduction of emissions. For Norway as a maritime nation, this will be an important contribution to reach the UN sustainable development goals,” he added.
Meanwhile, Wilhelmsen’s Ships Service arm is set to trial shore-to-ship drone delivery in Singapore with Airbus. In Q3 this year, the two companies will run a two-week trial using drones to deliver spares, documents, water test kits and 3D printed consumables to vessels from Singapore’s Marina South pier.
Wilhelmsen will set up the required maritime and port operations, gain relevant approval from port authorities and secure maritime customers, while Airbus will provide its Skyways unmanned air system and handle control and maintenance of this along with corresponding aviation approvals.
Wilhelmsen Ships Service commercial vice president for Ships Agency, Marius Johansen said “When we announced last year that we were pursuing drone delivery we were greeted with a fair amount of scepticism, but our collaboration with Airbus shows we really do mean business.”
Noting that Wilhelmsen already organises delivery of spares, supplies and cash via launch boat as part of its standard husbandry services, Mr Johansen said “delivery by drone is much more cost effective, quicker, and frankly safer for all involved.”
“Costing on average 90% less than launch boats, they importantly remove the risks inherently involved with making launch deliveries and also have negligible environmental impact,” he added.
The partnership follows a year of planning and collaboration between Wilhelmsen, Airbus, the Singapore Maritime Port Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore. A command centre and delivery centre will be established, with an initial range of up to 3 km. To extend coverage further, a second delivery station will be positioned at an open space in Marina South.