Harald Solberg

CEO, Norwegian Shipowners’ Association

The corona pandemic changed the future of the industry overnight, and last year’s Outlook Report was never published. A thoroughly globalized industry, shipping was faced with tremendous challenges when the world literally shut down. This year we present an updated market picture describing both how the events of last year unfolded, and what we expect from 2021.  

No one can claim that we were prepared to deal with a pandemic of this dimension. The past year has shown us some of the best in international cooperation, through an impressively rapid development of vaccines against Covid-19. At the same time, we have experienced the serious consequences of a lack of international cooperation, with closed national borders, travel restrictions and frequent changes in rules that have impacted everyone who has to travel.

Especially seafarers and other specialized personnel, those making a fantastic effort every day to keep supply lines open during the pandemic, have paid a high price in the last year. Great uncertainty, long periods on board, loneliness, no opportunity to go ashore and often double quarantine regimes have been the rule. Nevertheless, thanks to the efforts of seafarers and shipowners, we have received the goods, medicines, infection control equipment and everything else that we, society and businesses, are completely dependent on to keep the wheels in motion.

The power that lies in all nations pulling in the same direction has proven to be formidable.

The last year has shown us how closely-knit the world is, and how dependent the world’s economies are on interaction with each other. We have seen it proven emphatically that no one operates in a vacuum. And we have all experienced first-hand that isolation makes our lives, and our days, poorer.

At the same time, the past year has shown us the strength of the world community that global trade has helped to build. The power that lies in all nations pulling in the same direction has proven to be formidable. Together, we have succeeded in pushing the boundaries of what we thought was possible. This is uplifting when we think of the known, and unknown problems we in the global community will face in the years to come. The last year has shown us that where there is a will, there is a way. With this realization also comes responsibility.

New climate demands are not a threat to the Norwegian industry, they represent enormous opportunities. 

The clear message from the younger generation to politicians and businesses has shaped recent years: climate change must be taken seriously, and human impact on the planet’s climate must be reduced. I am therefore proud to lead an organization with members who demonstrate serious commitment to climate issues, and who are taking important steps to find new solutions to reduce their climate footprints.

Norwegian shipping companies are taking the lead in developing green technology. We have a world-leading maritime cluster that has pioneered the development of outstanding technology for decades. We have conquered ever-deeper oceans and more inhospitable waters, all with unsurpassed precision and capacity. New climate demands are therefore not a threat to the Norwegian industry, they represent enormous opportunities.

With the industry’s combined knowledge and innovative power, we can create solutions that the world needs, while at the same time creating value and jobs along the entire Norwegian coast. This requires that we pursue an active policy to ensure that the entire cluster can survive extremely challenging markets in the segments hardest hit by the corona crisis.

One of the most important prerequisites for sustainable innovation and investment with a generational perspective is long-term and patient capital. Norwegian shipping companies have a very high proportion of private Norwegian owners. The high degree of private ownership means that these companies dare to have longer time horizons than the next quarterly or annual report. This enables Norwegian shipowners to make investments that may not be profitable in the short term, but which are of great importance in the long term.

Shipowners are at the hub of the maritime cluster, connecting shipyards, equipment suppliers, insurance companies, class societies, ship designers and other service providers. It is therefore crucial for the Norwegian maritime industry that shipowning remain in Norwegian hands. To ensure this, predictable and competitive framework conditions are needed for Norwegian private ownership.

If Norway is to maintain its position as one of the world's foremost maritime nations, competitive framework conditions, predictability and competence are required. 

This year’s Outlook Report is a story about Norway’s most global industry, offering good examples of the challenges and opportunities we face. We know that maritime policy works. If Norway is to maintain its position as one of the world’s foremost maritime nations, competitive framework conditions, predictability and competence are required.

The Norwegian maritime industry aspires to lead the way, to elevate standards and move borders. We will search beyond the horizon and below the surface to help solve the greatest global challenges of our time. By pursuing these goals, we can ensure the future of Norway as a maritime nation.