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From Road to Sea

It's not a pretty picture. The prospect of more huge trucks clogging European roads while attempting to handle increased cargo loads is a vision the European Union and local authorities want to avoid. So, through a series of programmes and incentives, businesses are being urged to consider increasing their use of reliable, cost-effective and environmentally friendly transport through short-sea shipping. These measures and new market conditions present a clear opportunity for short-sea providers in Norway's world-class maritime cluster to secure a strong position in this emergent market segment.

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Lyse-Line has deployed two quicker and larger new ships - LysPoint and LysBox (pictured here) - to serve greater demand for capacity and speed in the short-sea market.
© Lyse-Line


An Expanding Industry
As the short-sea market evolves and demand increases, Norwegian companies have responded vigorously. Companies like Sea-Cargo, Lyse-Line and Nor-Cargo are increasing capacity and adding new vessels to serve the market. On the new technology side, innovators such as Abacus Solutions, NorControl IT and Greenwave are pioneering systems to improve ship design, manage traffic and increase terminal efficiency.


This substantial new activity is strongly supported by the Norwegian Shipowners' Association and Norwegian Cargo Shipping Association, as well as targeted public/private sector programmes such as the Northern Maritime Corridor, ShortSea Promotion Centre and EUROFEEDER, all of which are designed to further develop short-sea shipping and bring economic benefits to the region.


Natural Advantages
Anders Talleraas, Chairman of the Norwegian Cargo Shipping Association, pointed out that one of the strengths of the Norwegian short-sea industry is that it is composed of relatively small companies which feature strong local knowledge and good cooperation between crew and management. He also highlighted the beneficial wide geographic spread of companies and facilities, with locations all along the long coast of the country. Talleraas is optimistic about the future of the segment in Norway, while noting a key challenge will be meeting the need for fleets to be renewed in order to stay competitive.


Challenges to Growth
Besides fleet renewal, there are other obstacles to overcome. Recent studies have pinpointed bottlenecks that prevent increased sea transportation throughout Europe. Surveys have shown that sea transport lacks a positive image in some sectors of the business community, whose awareness of the short-sea transport option is severely limited. Also, some critics say the Norwegian sector lacks the integration necessary to perform at its best, while other reports cited unwieldy paperwork and a lack of synergy with ports as major stumbling blocks for the sector.


Lys-Line Stepping Up
The call for increased capacity has been answered by Norwegian firms like Lys-Line, which recently increased its capacity significantly with the deployment of the LysPoint, with 750 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent units). The new vessel replaces MV Heinz Schepers (500 TEU) and, in tandem with sister vessel LysBox (also 750 TEU), will sail between Rotterdam, Hamburg, and Oslo, Moss, Brevik and Kristiansand in Norway. 


The LysPoint is quicker than its predecessor, and its enhanced performance will strengthen Lys-Line's position in the door-to-door market between the Continent and Scandinavia.


2_from-road400x300.jpg (97860 bytes)Lysvik is one of Lyse-Line's side port vessels, pictured here en route on Iddefjorden in Norway.
© Lyse-Line


Nor-Cargo Strong in Harbours

Access to important harbour facilities is seen as one key to future success in the short-sea market for Norwegian firms. One of the leading actors in the segment, Nor-Cargo, has built up its network through the years, and currently is able to offer 500 weekly calls at over 70 harbours. The company covers the Norwegian coast, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Germany and the United Kingdom. Nor-Cargo offers customers heavy lifts, provides ship groupage, break bulk and refrigerated/frozen products services.


Sea-Cargo Adding Faster Ships
In 2005, Bergen-based Sea-Cargo added a new Ro-Ro ship to its service, creating a third direct sailing route to and from the United Kingdom and the Continent and increasing capacity on the route by 400,000 tonnes. The new ship began service in January 2005 and currently runs between the company's main hubs - WC Norway, Amsterdam and Immingham, UK.


This is the first step in an overall upgrade of the company's fleet, and more new ships are planned, all modern Ro-Ro/MP ships with speeds up to 20 knots. The new vessels are set to replace existing tonnage, and they will be included in a new system which will provide a transit time of less than 20 hours to and from both the United Kingdom and the Continent. This speed competes with road transport and ferry links through Denmark, and the cost savings promises to be significant. For example, an average trailer operator will save more than 800 kilometres of driving by using the link into and out of Amsterdam.


Abacus & Norcontrol IT
Two innovative Norwegian firms providing key technology to the short-sea shipping infrastructure are Abacus and Norcontrol IT. Based in Trondheim, Abacus creates marine IT systems, such as 3D Convert, that enable concurrent engineering across all participants in the design process. Leading companies like Aker Kværner, Kongsberg Marine and Rolls-Royce Marine are among the firm's clients.


Norcontrol IT is a world leader in vessel traffic management systems, having delivered over 150 solutions to clients around the world. In Norway, the Norwegian Coastal Directorate deploys a Norcontrol VTS system to prevent ship collisions, increase safety and avoid environmentally damaging spills.


3_from-road220x66.jpg (12115 bytes)Recent fleet upgrades have increased Sea-Cargo's capacity by 400,000 tonnes on the route between Norway, Amsterdam and Immingham in the United Kingdom.
© Sea-Cargo

Greenwave: Innovating Wireless Terminal Modules
The Oslo firm Greenwave AS has launched a new terminal transaction tool, the T3, designed to keep control over all containers in coastal or inland container terminals. The firm touts the system's ability to register all possible transactions for the life-cycle of containers at terminal, including discharge, gate-in, gate-out, load, stripping, stuffing, and maintenance and repair. In addition, the T3 manages reporting and invoicing with an entirely wireless solution that features real-time reports on request and e-mail stock or movement reports for contacts.


SPC Aiding with Information
To enhance Norwegian industry's ability to compete, the ShortSea Promotion Centre (SPC) was jointly established by the Norwegian Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Norwegian Ministry of Transport and Communications, and the Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs in 2003. The initiative is one of the many such centres organized throughout the region that have joined forces as the European Shortsea Network in order to harmonize their activities.


The SPC offers businesses involved in short-sea shipping a variety of focused services. Relying on information sharing via the web, SPC will be offering customers new services, such as the ability to access a new door-to-door services search on the centre's website (www.shortseashipping.no). The primary feature of the new service will be a database of carriers and harbours. This will make it easy for transporters to calculate the route with the least road and truck usage, bringing the benefits of short-sea shipping into stronger focus.


MARUT, an important maritime development project recently launched by government and industry in Norway, has designated the EUROFEEDER programme as one of its seven focus areas for future growth.


EUROFEEDER's aim is to bolster national participation in short-sea shipping, and increase shipbuilding and equipment deliveries to Europe. In its first stage, the programme set out some important recommendations for growth in the sector:


- Build up alliances with land and air transport operators
- Join partnerships with large cargo shippers
- Explore land acquisition of sites for specialized cargo terminals
- Enter into more ownerships and alliances with port entities
- Look into relevant acquisition or merger possibilities


The project will move into its next phase over the course of 2006, with many projects being organized to help businesses position themselves to compete in the next generation of short-sea shipping. 


Northern Maritime Corridor
Another project helping boost the sector is the Northern Maritime Corridor (NMC). This programme's goal is to create a cost-effective, safe and sustainable transportation network in coastal areas stretching from northern Norway and northwest Russia to continental Europe, linking the North Sea and Northern Periphery. It is hoped that a sea-based transportation corridor will boost development in these areas, which lie in nine different countries (Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Scotland, the Faeroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, Sweden and Norway). The NMC acts by urging regional authorities, industry, shipowners, transport companies and port officials to work cooperatively to develop new services in the affected areas.


Further development in the area is already well underway. A recent German road tax imposition has led to increased sea route interest from Norwegian transporters for goods destined for the Benelux region. And, with the likelihood of other nations following Germany's taxation lead, the attractiveness of the shipping option looks to be on the rise. The NMC project will further underscore the positives of shipping over road transport by marketing the corridor as a "Motorway of the Sea" in future promotions.


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Norcontrol IT's vessel traffic management systems are active in more than 150 locations worldwide, including the Norwegian Coastal Directorate.
© Norcontrol IT

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