Almost 100 persons from the maritime industry gathered in the Norwegian Shipowners' Association's venerable building on Thursdag 16 February. Together with Maritime Forum and the Norwegian Shipowners' Association, the Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA) invited to a breakfast meeting themed "Flying the Norwegian flag for safety and emergency preparedness".

And the Norwegian flag is blowing in the wind and stays stable and safe – especially in a world of uncertainty, war and crisis.

"The Norwegian flag is a natural choice for us, and also necessary. We need access to Norwegian seafarers and a complete maritime cluster. It is even more important in difficult times, when we need to be close to the Norwegian flag administration", said Anne Jorunn Møkster at Simon Møkster Shipping AS.

The Norwegian flag is a good strategic choice

Also attending the breakfast meeting was Höegh Autoliners, an international shipping company with no port calls or operations in Norway which still chooses to be regulated by the Norwegian flag State because they prefer a high-quality system.

"Choosing the right flag was an important decision and has been key for the last few years", said CEO Andreas Enger.

The company works strategically using Norwegian suppliers and operates in what they describe as a well-developed Norwegian ecosystem.

"It wasn't obvious, but we choose to stay in Norway and fly the Norwegian flag because of the marine cluster. There are many flag States to choose from, and it is important to us to have a complete structure corresponding to our values",  Enger elaborated.

'Choosing NIS was the right move'

Hans Sande at the Norwegian Maritime Officers' Association emphasised that to them, the Norwegian flag equals Norwegian content.

"Norwegian ownership and Norwegian seafarers have brought us this far, and it turns out that NIS was the right move back in 1987, and continues to be so 35 years later. Today, one of the success stories is Torstein Hagen and Viking Cruises' work to secure more Norwegian seafarers", Sande said.

"To the Norwegian Maritime Officers' Association, the Norwegian flag is a symbol of a safe future, career opportunities and quality for Norwegian young people. The grant scheme for the employment of Norwegian seafarers is an important part of this. We need the grant scheme to be able to compete", Sande stressed.

All-time high in 2022

Since the all-time low in 2014 with 522 registered ships in the Norwegian International Ship Register (NIS), the statistics have turned and numbers increased every single year. 2022 was all-time high with 735 registered ships by the end of the year. Even if a few ships were deleted from the register in the first two months of 2023, the future looks bright with more ongoing registrations.

"Our unique environment and the complete maritime cluster including shipping companies, Norwegian seafarersm administrations, shipyards and competence at a high academic level makes us stand out in the world elite", Director General of Shipping and Navigation, Knut Arild Hareide, said proudly.

He stressed that there are currently two trends dominating the maritime industry, decarbonisation and digitalisation.

"We were the first to introduce LNG and ships powered by batteries. This year, we are first again with a hydrogen-powered commercial ship, and we have every opportunity to be in the forefront of the development of ammonia-fuelled ships. But we need to work faster to reach the goals defined by the political leaders", said Director General of Shipping and Navigation, Knut Arild Hareide.

Bigger tonnage means more influence

Minister Bjørnar Skjæran is proud of the NIS register, which over several years has showed a positive trend.

"We encourage more ships to register with NIS because we want a big fleet supporting us as we continue developing not only the industry, but also the frameworks and our goals. More tonnage under the Norwegian flag means increased Norwegian influence globally. We want to continue the tradition where flying the Norwegian flag is not just a guarantee of safety, good cooperation and good working conditions, but also predictability and competitive arrangements", Skjæran stated.

CEO of the Norwegian Shipowners' Association, Harald Solberg, said that there is a lot of will to change in the industry, while also adding a clear "however".

"We need stable and competitive conditions – that is key."

The war in Ukaine was also discussed due to great uncertainty. "How should Norwegian companies navigate the difficult conditions of security policy, and what are the advantages of the Norwegian flag?"

Lieutenant Colonel Geir Hågen Karlsen at the Norwegian Defence University College, State Secretary Eivind Vad Peterson at the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Audun Halvorsen at the Norwegian Shipowners' Association took part in the panel discussion, which turned to the subject of the maritime industry being strategically very important.

"Norway has significant shipping resources that might be useful in times of crisis and war. 90 per cent of all goods are shipped by sea. With the current thears surrounding us, we see the importance of having an offshore fleet and LNG vessels that can help supply Europe with critical energy", said Audun Halvorsen, Executive Director for Security and crisis response at the Norwegian Shipowners' Association.