Oslo’s unique maritime community spans services from finance, equipment, shipbrokers, legal, insurance, classification, research and development, to education. But the key to remaining at the forefront lies in strengthening its competence, according to Odd Torset, Oslo Maritime Network’s newly appointed managing director.
Torset took over in September 2009 as head of OMN after retiring as regional manager for the Nordic and Baltic at Det Norske Veritas, a world leading classification society for ships, as well as for offshore verification and consultancy. He brings to the table 35 years of maritime experience from DNV, the last decade of which from top management.
His main task now at OMN is to facilitate cooperation across the sectors and bring up ideas for more efficient and environmentally friendly shipping. One way is through education, as spearheaded by the establishment of the Global Maritime Knowledge Hub last year in partnership with the Norwegian Shipowners Assocation. The other key is innovation, where OMN acts as a bridge builder between Innovation Norway and start-ups for further research and development.
“We have to strengthen our competence,” says Torset. “Only then are we able to continue to be in the forefront of shipping, equipment, brokers and financing. We don’t have cheap labour and we are not in the centre of markets geographically.”
Oslo Maritime Network is a non-profit membership network gathering members from all segments of the maritime cluster in the greater Oslo region. There are currently 60 members, such as ship owners Wilhelm Wilhelmsen and IM Skaugen, class society DNV, shipbrokers RS Platou, environmental organization Bellona, and research group SINTEF.
The greater Oslo region is the centre of the deep-sea shipping and services industry, with 10,000 maritime employees stretched from the southern cities of Sandefjord and Larvik northward to Kongsberg and Drammen. Nationwide, there are about 90,000 maritime employees.
“Customers come here to order, design, insure, charter and classify ships,” says Kevin Gallagher, Maritime Cluster Coordinator at Oslo Teknopol, The OMN Secretariat. “You can spend a week here and come away with your ship in order.”
One of the trends expected to have a positive impact on the Oslo area is the recent increase in Norwegian registered ships, more commonly referred to as “flagging home,” as a result of the new Norwegian shipping tax regime announced in late 2007.
The Norwegian ministry of trade and industry has been on a charm offensive to convince ship owners to register in the Norwegian International Ship register (NIS). Its efforts have borne fruit. The number of ships in the Norwegian merchant fleet, registered in the NIS and owned by Norwegians, went up from 355 in 2007 to 385 in 2008, according to Statistics Norway.
An example is Höegh Autoliners, which is relocating its shipowning activity to Oslo. Following the move, 43 car carriers will be held by its Norwegian shipowning entity. By 2012, it plans to have at least 61 car carriers under Norwegian ownership.
“The Norwegian maritime cluster provides a unique base for collaboration and experienced resources in all maritime related fields,” says Thor Jørgen Guttormsen, Höegh Autoliners Chief Executive. “Maritime competence of a very high standard is available here.”
The maritime environment will grow as a result of the rise in Norwegian registered ships, according to Torset. It means more influential people will contribute to other parts of the maritime cluster and more competence will be gathered.
“In Oslo we have the total cluster,” he says. “The crossover effect will be larger than in other clusters.”
The Global Maritime Knowledge Hub
The idea is to make Norway the maritime equivalent of what life sciences were for Boston and IT for Silicon Valley, sometime within the next decade. The Oslo region will build on its unique concentration of top league universities and R&D milieus, international knowledge firms, competent venture capital and investors, to offer an innovative culture, with excellent infrastructure and highly attractive living.
The most important initiative by OMN has been the creation of the Global Maritime Knowledge Hub. So far the knowledge hub has set up 14 of 20 planned professorships at Norwegian universities. Each professorship is funded by a maritime company and given a specific priority focus of study. For example, Farstad, Havila Island Offshore and DNV have funded an advanced maritime operation professorship at the College in Ålesund. Tschudi Shipping has sponsored the Centre for High North Logistics at the College in Bodø and the Norwegian School of Management in Oslo. DNV has sponsored three at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim in construction and hydrodynamics, operational logistics and ice mechanics.
“The professorships are all over the country because it is also a national cluster,” says Torset. “It’s not just important for Oslo, but to see how we can develop competence on a national level.”
Its other initiative is within innovation, under the concept “Springboard,” which has its origins in the Silicon Valley ICT environment. Springboards provide an intensive meeting between promising young companies and expert panels to put companies on a fast track to successful commercialization and new markets. It acts as a bridge builder between innovation facilitators and start-ups for further research and development.
OMN has, together with partner CONNECT Norway, conducted several springboards to date, helping companies with divergent concepts such as social computing for shipping, slicker and stronger ship coatings, and recycling of water on board in order to reduce spillage and improve energy efficiency. CONNECT was established in 1985 by the University of California as a program for technology and entrepreneurship.
The World’s Fifth Largest
• 1,876 ships
• 61 mobile offshore units
• 57,400 seamen – of which 16,100 are Norwegian nationals
• 90,000-100,000 employed in the maritime industries
• Maritime industries generate NOK 100 billion annually
• International shipping contributes most to foreign trade service revenues
• The world’s second largest offshore industry
Source: Norwegian Shipowners Association