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NORWAY: An Introduction to Shipping

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Advokatfirmaet Simonsen Vogt Wiig Logo
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Norway's shipping cluster 

Norway has a long and proud maritime history, and for centuries Norwegian shipping has been a major player in the world's oceans. Bergen has been synonymous with Norwegian trade and shipping since the Hanseatic-trade times, before Oslo (Christiania, till 1925) started to rival it in services and financing. The first regional shipowners' association was formed in Bergen in 1899, followed by the Norwegian Shipowners' Association, formed a decade later in Oslo.

With trade, fisheries and offshore oil production having been the staple pillars of the Norwegian economy for some decades, the maritime industry transitioned from one to another, always nimbly, applying and developing expertise and technology across the sectors. Norway developed the most prominent shipyards and manufacturers of equipment, with cutting-edge technology and innovation. The country, accounting for no more than 0.1% of the global population, managed to become a bold reference point in the truly global maritime sector and network.

The maritime prominence of Norway would not have been possible to achieve without the unrelenting commitment of the centuries-old shipping community. The same can be said for its finance sector. Norway's investors and banks recognised the great opportunity soon after the first oil installations appeared on the Norwegian Continental Shelf in the 1970s, helping to convert fishing vessels to provide supply services. A few decades later, and with a merciless beating of the offshore sector, the over-supply is converting back to using existing tonnage in fisheries and offshore wind farming, while new technologies and financing schemes are being pioneered by Norway's technological and financial centres.

Tom Cantero, chairman of the Norwegian Maritime Exporters association, summed it up well in 2008, when he said of the Norwegian maritime cluster, “it is no exaggeration to say that the Norwegian industry is the most complete maritime supply chain in the world.”

Showcase 

Some of the most recognisable companies, institutions and agencies that have helped make Norway a centre for maritime operations, marine insurance, ship financing, shipbuilding, brokering and management are listed below, as a most illustrative showcase:

• DNV, the world's leading classification society in shipping (and beyond)
• Gard P&I and Skuld P&I, the world's two largest P&I insurers
• Grieg, Klaveness, W. Wilhelmsen, A. Wilhelmsen, Fred. Olsen and Ulstein are some of the oldest shipowners and managers and are still leading today, not only adapting to the changes but shaping the future by investment in and application of new technologies (ahead of regulations), from environmentally paradigmatic designs, engines and fuel, to the digital applications on all operations
• DNB, Nordea, SEB, Swedbank, Pareto Securities, Astrup Fearnley, R.S. Platou/Clarksons Platou, Lorentzen & Stemoco
• The Norwegian Ship Register
• The Norwegian Shipowners' Association
• The Norwegian Shipbrokers' Association (whose sale-form for second-hand vessel sale and purchase (first version in 1925) remains the globally dominant form

Ship financing 

Norwegian banks, export credit schemes, the local capital market, Norwegian bond structures, local investors and local investment houses are financing shipping and its various operations across the globe.

From rigs and offshore, to seismic, fisheries, car carriers, containers, tankers, LNG carriers and bulkers, knowledge of and experience in each segment enables understanding of its distinct opportunities and risks. With the shipping tradition in Norway across segments, and a long-standing self-reliance and resilience in that community, the financing cluster in Norway is likely the most shipping-versed: it's proven to be most nimble in recognising new opportunities, as well as eager to tackle and comply with the regulatory and global initiatives.

Even the most recent focus on ESG can be said to have been organically developed in this country, albeit not by the adoption of an acronym-driven trend, but rather because responsibility and accountability have been ever-present considerations on all shipping ventures in this land. It's the way things have been done for a long time in this otherwise remote land of persevering, innovative and fair-minded communities.

Despite the decline in access to debt financing by large banks (previously the main ship financiers), the ingenuity and commitment of the industry and its investors in Norway have ensured access to global capital through (a) its long-established financing houses, such as Ness, Risan & Partners (NRP), Pareto Securities, Offshore Merchant Partners and Fearnley Securities, as well as (b) the relative newcomers in debt financing, such as Maritime & Merchant and Pareto Bank. Those financiers continue to cover the financing needs of global shipping operations and acquisitions, and have managed to fill a gap while adapting to the ever-increasing regulatory changes and challenges with astonishing readiness.

Legal services within Norway's Shipping 

SVW provides legal services to, amongst other, entities showcased further above, on matters such as:

• Sale and purchase
• Shipbuilding
• Debt financing
• Corporate finance, structuring and restructuring
• Leasing
• Ship-tech and autonomous shipping
• Capital markets
• Insurance
• Litigation (Norwegian law and English law)
• Tax
• Compliance (Sustainability and ESG)