"We are at a crossroads, and we all feel it. The Russian invasion of Ukraine will affect and change a whole generation," said Director General of Navigation and Shipping, Knut Arild Hareide, from the pulpit in Bergen.

Siv Remøy-Vangen.
Siv Remøy-Vangen. Foto: Marit Nilsen

In the room were 80 representatives from shipping companies, law firms, the Norwegian Shipowners' Mutual War Risks Insurance Association, the Royal Norwegian Navy, the Norwegian Shipowners' Association, the Bergen Shipowners' Association and the Norwegian Maritime Authority.

Siv Remøy-Vangen from Maritime Bergen guided us through the meeting and moderated the discussions.

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Safe ships shall sail

Originally, the flag breakfast meeting was supposed to be an homage to NIS and the growth in the Norwegian fleet. The acts of war in Ukraine, however, quickly erased the celebatory headlines and moved the focus to "the Norwegian flag in times of war and crisis".

"Norway and the Norwegian Maritime Authority will remain world-leading and innovative, and we will take the climate crisis seriously. We will provide the legislation necessary to reach the emission targets, but most importantly, we will be a support for our customers," Hareide said.

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The Norwegian Maritime Authority also described what we as a flag can offer to our customers, and that the main focus is to ensure that ships will be able to sail.

"We identify flexible solutions for certificates for vessels and seafarers, and we are here for the shipping companies 24/7," Alf Tore Sørheim, Head of Department of Operative Supervision at the NMA pointed out.

7 out of 10 companies are facing challenges

Audun Halvorsen.
Audun Halvorsen. Foto: Marit Nilsen

Audun Halvorsen, Executive Director for Security and Crisis Response at the Norwegian Shipowners' Association, also gave a speech. He painted a dark picture where seven out of ten companies have reported challenges following the Russian invasion of Ukraine 24 February.

"Ukranian waters have been closed, and the highest maritime security level has been applied. Still, we know that there are several shipping companies where Ukrainian and Russian seafarers are working together on the same ship. This clearly affects us," he said.

Halvorsen also added that we need to prepare for higher prices and a shortage of goods in the long run. On top of that, there is the sanctions from the EU and other countries in an already complicated system.

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Freddy Furlund.
Freddy Furlund. Foto: Marit Nilsen

Freddy Furulund, Director of security and contingency, represented the Norwegian Shipowners' Mutual War Risks Insurance Association. He talked about the work of the association during the weeks leading up to the war. He used a case concerning Hansa Tankers who had several ships in the area when the war started. Hansa Tankers were also represented at the breakfast meeting.

"We worked with different scenarios, and our main focus was to get the crew and ships behind the Russian blockade. We were closesly monitoring all the ship traffic in the area, and we initiated a large-scale notification procedure when the war started and the security level was raised," Furulund explained while providing the participants with an impressive insght into the work that was carried out to keep crew and ships safe in the war zone.

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Know your delivery line

Øystein Meland.
Øystein Meland. Foto: Marit Nilsen

Lawyer Øystein Meland from law firm Bahr went into closer detail on what shipping companies should consider concerning sanctions from a contractual point of view.

"Many companies do not know how far they will have to go when it comes to who the parties are in a delivery. Well, the further down the line you go, the better," Meland concluded.

He also talked about issues such as "What constitutes a breach to the sanctions?", "Which ports are safe?" and "May ships be detained?".

"We currently do not have any Norwegian sanctions, but the risk scenario changes by the day. It is more important than ever to know your customer," Meland stressed.

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Per-Vidar Kjølmoen.
Per-Vidar Kjølmoen. Foto: Marit Nilsen

Spokesperson for trade and industry policy and fraction leader for the Norwegial Labour Party, Per-Vidar Kjølmoen, talked about sanctions and cooperation in the maritime sector and the Government's point of view.

"These are demanding times, and the picture is ever changing. The consequenses for the maritime industry will be significant, and the Government is constantly considering compensating measures," said Kjølmoen and added that Norway will display strength, while at the same time avoid an escalation.

The "the Quality Flag" breakfast was held together with the Bergen Shipowners' Association and Maritime Bergen. The NMA joined these two for three shipping company visits which included useful discussions and information.FF_22.jpg