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Flying the green standard: Anticipation and innovation

The fleets of the world must increasingly take heed of the realities of safety and the environment. Norwegian ship's gear manufacturers and yards have responded to this dynamic current of change, and to a shipping industry now characterized by improved...

Recent loss of life and damage to the environment near the shores of Northern Europe have highlighted the need for ship’s gear, services and regulations that reduce emissions and marine pollution while saving lives and property. The Norwegian maritime industry is the most comprehensive in the world and has devoted great effort to answering these needs with solutions.

The British Marine Safety Agency’s assessment of Norwegian merchant ships as the cleanest and safest in the world is consistent with Norway’s leadership stance advocating the implementation of stricter rules and regulations governing safety at sea. Under the watchful eye of national pollution control authorities, Norwegian outfitters of ships are also keen to be clean. Thanks in part to domestically-designed technological advances in electronic monitoring, alarm and control systems by well-known firms such as Autronica and Scana Moland, the shipping industry’s record continues to improve.

The Norwegian Maritime Directorate, Det Norske Veritas and the country’s maritime exporters have taken their environmental message to the UN’s International Maritime Organization, the IMO. While Det Norske Veritas tries to improve the conditions for personnel on board ships, Norwegian shipping and research organizations have joined R&D forces to make ships more environmentally sound. The result is that a number of manufacturers, benefiting from access to national cooperation and research, have stepped forward to reveal innovations that have become benchmark designs.

In response to a toughening worldwide stance against the deliberate emitting of ozone depleting gases, Mecmar is building ship’s exhaust equipment that injects seawater into the emissions of gas turbines and diesel engines. The seawater has a scrubbing effect on exhaust gases. Although the idea is not new and is used on some fast craft, it is proving to be an excellent way to reduce emissions from larger commercial ships. Mecmar has installed 250 units and its production facilities are operating full time to fulfil contracts for the Swedish and US navies.

A culture of consensus fuels collaboration between shipowners, yards and gear manufacturers in Norway, as does a feeling that the shipping industry’s survival rests on its ability to adapt to rapid change in the intensely competitive world of trade and freight markets. Focusing on a national mantra of clean, (safe sailing now being heard around the world)gives Norwegian manufacturers a competitive edge as the scrutinizing public, maritime authorities and the maritime industry itself concentrate on safety at sea.

Fuelling Change

The focus of the future will be the follow up to new rules regarding air pollution in the international treaty on maritime pollution, MARPOL Annex VI. The treaty aims to reduce or stabilize emissions of gases from ships through international technical or market related regulation, and Norway is helping to finance IMO studies to make it possible to reach these targets.

In January 2000, two Norwegian shipyards, Langsten and Tangen Verft, delivered the world’s first cleaner burning, liquefied natural gas driven ferry, the MF Glutra. The new alternative fuel signifies a vast improvement over contemporary bunkers, and it could well represent the start of a new phase of environment friendliness in Norwegian shipping. The Norwegian Shipowners’ Association and the Research Council of Norway cooperate closely on national environmental R&D programmes such as those examining the use of chemicals on board vessels, environmental management and training, and the development of environmental technology. Den Norske Veritas has designed tools for environmental auditing of the shipping industry, and a growing number of shipowners are incorporating environmental data into their annual reports.

Environmentally conscious and competitive products, such as Jotun Paints’ Seaquantum tin free self polishing anti fouling systems and Mecmar’s emission scrubbers, anticipate resolutions by the IMO set to prohibit tin in anti fouling by 2003 and control environmentally harmful emissions.

While another IMO working group develops draft regulations for ballast water management, the Norwegian company OptiMarin has installed the first ballast water treatment system aboard an operating vessel, Princess Cruises’ Regal Princess, typifying a Norwegian standard of marine product design at the forefront of change. The proposed new regulations are intended to address the environmental damage caused by the introduction of harmfulaquatic organisms in ballast water used to stabilize vessels at sea. Globally, it is estimated that about 10 billion tonnes of ballast water is transferred each year.

Safer at Sea (the ISM Code)

The implementation of the IMO International Safety Management(ISM) Code in 1998 was a major breakthrough in the efforts of the global shipping industry to improve safety at sea. The ISM Code carries enormous commercial implications as it establishes an international norm for shipping operations at all levels. Combined with technical specifications and international rules concerning the training and professional qualifications of seamen, the international maritime sector has successfully produced a set of new conditions that apply across the board. The new rules will help to keep the maritime environment safe for everyone.

The code has been under development for 10 years. The decision to make the code mandatory was taken in 1994 by 137 countries that, together, represented some 98 per cent of the world’s tonnage. The Norwegian shipping industry has participated actively in efforts to ratify and implement the code since the beginning. When Phase 1 of the ISM Code entered into force on 1 July 1998, encompassing all passenger and cargo vessels over 500 dwt, a full 99.5 per cent or 467 of 470 Norwegian vessels affected had received certification. Phase 2 of the ISM Code requires ships of other types in the world’s fleets to attain certification by 1 July 2002. A new countdown to comply with an international standard for safety at sea is underway, and Norway’s yards and gear manufacturers are ready.

Leadership Born of Flexibility

With the fourth largest fleet in the world and a 15 per cent stake in the maritime manufacturing market, Norway is a leader in the sector. A millennium of experience at sea has given this country of only 4.4 million the range of expertise and indigenous technology necessary to remain competitive, even in tough times. The renowned flexibility of Norwegian shipyards and gear manufacturers has turned the once conservative outfitters of Norway’s fishing fleet into high tech providers of products and services for the entire maritime sector, including the offshore industry.

A major contributing factor underlying Norway’s role as a leader in a competitive sector is the close cooperation that exists between shipowners, shipyards and ship’s gear manufacturers. A history of collaboration enabled various industrial players to work together intensively when hydrocarbon deposits were discovered on Norway’s continental shelf. The blossoming of the Norwegian petroleum industry created a new area of activity for a Norwegian shipping industry seeking to reinvent itself. Ambitious skippers and owners of fishing boats recognized the potential of this new and exciting market and seized the opportunity to take part in it, closely followed by shipyards and ship’s gear suppliers. In 1967 a converted whale factory trawler became the first Norwegian operated drill ship.

Early on, deep sea fishing vessels were converted to standby and supply vessels. The first specialized ships were American designs. Norwegian operators soon discovered, however, that designs intended for the Gulf of Mexico would not survive the harsh North Sea. Norwegian designers sat down at their drawing boards and produced a large variety of ship types durable enough for stormy Norwegian waters. Today designs that can withstand North Sea winters are in service around the globe, and the Norwegian fleet of drilling and production vessels has grown into the world’s second largest.

Together to Meet the Competition

For many companies, deliveries to and collaboration with Norwegian shipowners have formed the starting point for major export contracts. Today, approximately 60 per cent of all ship’s gear developed and produced in Norway is exported, amounting to revenues of some USD 2 billion.

The array of products is vast, ranging from sewage systems to survival systems, galley equipment, communications systems and much more. Yet in today’s industry, shipyards prefer comprehensive package deliveries requiring as few subcontractors as possible. With increasing stipulations for domestic participation on out of town jobs, Norwegian manufacturers are teaming up with local gear manufacturers and entering into joint ventures or production and licensing agreements that improve productivity, cost efficiency and market share. While mergers and cooperation agreements abound, small companies nevertheless flourish by working closely with agents and distributors worldwide to meet the service needs of an increasingly competitive market.