Norway is currently the world’s fourth largest shipping nation measured by value with almost a tenth of the total global trading tonnage. Norway is also one of the nations with the highest share of its fleet under its own flag. Norwegian shipowners are particularly active in the international tanker, bulk-carrier, chemical-carrier, gas-carrier, car-ferry and cruise markets.
Norway’s coastline is embraced by the sea from the northernmost point to the southernmost tip. The sea has shaped the country’s history as well as its economy. Seamarks have a long history in Norway. As early as the year 869, Vikings on their way home were able to steer their ships towards the mouth of the Hardangerfjord guided by a bonfire built on a clifftop cairn. Without seamarks and lighthouses, safe travel along the coast or through narrow coastal channels would be impossible. A total of 21 000 lighthouses and seamarks safeguard navigation along the Norwegian coast.
Related: Sustainable Shipping In Norway
Norway – The World’s Fourth Largest Shipping Nation
Measured by value, China, Japan and Greece are by far the three largest shipping nations, followed by Norway and the United States. International shipping is characterized by free competition and few restrictions. To improve the competitive situation for ships operating abroad under Norwegian flag, the Norwegian International Ship Register (NIS) was formed in 1987. In January 2021, the fleet consisted of 1783 ships totaling 51.1 million deadweight tons.
The Norwegians carry with them a long and rich history of living from and with the sea – from the seafarers of the medieval Saga Age to the present international shipping companies. For centuries, the shipping route along the coast was Norwegians’ lifeline. The Norwegian shipping adventure is the sailors’ adventure.
The Norwegian Shipping Adventure
In a book from 2015, «The shipping adventure. A photographic story 1875-1975 » (Original title “Skipsfartseventyret. En fotografisk fortelling 1875-1975”) the authors Silje Een de Amoriza and Ingrid Myrstad have collected photographs from the heyday of Norwegian international maritime history. The book is not about the shipowners and the ships, but the sailors, deck boys, electricians, sailors, helmsmen and cooks who went to sea. The interest in life at sea has been growing in recent years. The author Jon Michelet’s novel series “The Hero of the Sea” (Sjøens helt) is about Norwegian war sailors during World War II.
The 100-year period 1875-1975 is often called the golden age of Norwegian maritime history. Seamen became one of Norway’s largest occupational groups in the second half of the 19th century. In one of the first large censuses of Norwegian seafarers in 1878, 63,000 men, about every sixth man between the ages of 15 and 55, were employed in the merchant navy.
Shipping generates more business
Shipping is important both to the Norwegian transport industry and for transporting export products. Shipping is also a key part of Norway’s wide-ranging maritime environment. A broad range of companies in areas such as shipbuilding, the equipment industry, shipbroking, ship financing and insurance, etc, has grown up around the shipping companies. The annual export revenues from the shipping industry are around NOK 52 billion.
“For several years, we have seen a positive trend in the NIS register, which is very gratifying. This is important, not only to us, but to the entire Norwegian maritime cluster. We all benefit from the fact that more ships are flying the Norwegian flag, as this implies a higher level of competence and increased international influence,” says Acting Director General of Navigation and Shipping, Lars Alvestad. He explains that increased tonnage gives Norway the opportunity of flexing its muscles when promoting a cause, and especially when legislative amendments are ratified, in the UN’s International Maritime Organization (IMO).
A thousand years history
For over a thousand years, the sea has been the source of Norwegian wealth and the basis of Norwegians contact with the rest of the world. New industries and new technology are redefining the coastal and maritime economy. When the Norwegian economy has been hit by waves, the country has used the force of those waves to move forward. And Norwegians will continue to do so in the years ahead.
The shipping industry is one of the world’s most advanced in terms of developing energy-efficient vessels. The pharmaceutical industry is conducting research into the effect of marine-derived products on a variety of diseases. Wind and wave power will be sources of clean and renewable energy.
Norway – The World’s Fourth Largest Shipping Nation, written by Tor Kjolberg
Feature image (on top): Battery driven ships. Photo: DNV – Det norske Veritas