Norwegian Maritime Cluster in Crisis

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A shadow of itself after seven years of crisis_
Geir Strand (Last updated_ 45 minutes ago)

The Norwegian Maritime Cluster is a shadow of itself after seven heavy years of crisis. Green change and offshore wind are the hope one clings to in the dream of a new era of greatness.

Once upon a time. The large offshore supply vessel slips out of the berth at Kleven shipyard in Ulstein in May 2014.

Billions of kroner have been lost, family fortunes have disappeared and much of the Sunnmøre ownership is gone.
The maritime cluster was the spearhead of the business community in the Northwest.
Vard, Kleven and Ulstein were the large and dominant shipyards. Sunnmøre shipowners such as the Farstad family in Ålesund dominated the offshore supply market.
Rolls-Royce was the technological spearhead for the development of increasingly sophisticated ships in oil service.
The Norwegian Maritime Competence Center (NMK) and NTNU linked academia and research to the development of the maritime industry.
Those were the times.

So far this year, two ships of a certain size have been contracted at the shipyards. Billions of kroner in equity are gone. Private investors are refusing to go into shipbuilding and banks are holding back on credit. The risk is high and the margins are small.

It may sound like a little over black painting, some would say.
The shipyards are there. People are at work. In total, the shipyards have an order book of 56 boats worth approximately NOK 27 billion. There are still offshore vessels with Sunnmøre shipowners as owners, NMK exists and NTNU in Ålesund is a more popular place to study than ever.

But despite this, if one looks closer, it is not just the luster of ancient greatness that is gone. The maritime cluster as a spearhead and dominant player has been significantly weakened.
The reason for this is obvious. Advanced ships for the oil and gas industry were the specialty. This is what drove technology development, profitability and the market position going forward.
That type of ship is no longer in demand.

Before the pandemic shut down society, the shipyards tried to enter the market for smaller and somewhat exclusive cruise ships.
From the shipyards’ side, there were high hopes for that type of boat. It was seen as a new market with great potential.
The construction of cruise ships did not connect to the rest of the maritime cluster in the same way as oil service vessels did.
Offshore cranes, positioning systems, advanced thrusters, ROV technology and powerful winches have been equipment that have built the cluster together.
Cruise boats are full of spas, concert halls, restaurants and bars. This is not what the competence environment within the maritime industry has driven.
People from the maritime cluster may have tried to empty some bars over the years :smiley: but they do not have much experience in building them.
But the expedition ships kept the shipyards going and secured people jobs, until the pandemic put an effective stop to new orders.

Reduced impact
Another challenge for the maritime cluster is that with declining activity, there is also reduced political impact. During the pandemic, the industry called for better support schemes, without being heard. Many of them may be due to the fact that there were other industries, such as airlines, hotels and restaurants, which were hit far harder than shipyards and the maritime industry.

Another reason may be that new industries are emerging and taking a lot of attention.
In our area, we see that the salmon industry with all its subcontractors is an increasingly important part of the business community in our region.Companies such as Patogen, Optimar, Rostein, Sølvtrans, Hofset Aqua Salmon, Atlantic Sapphire and Salmom Evolution are for many unknown names, but companies with significant growth.
The wellboat companies have become increasingly important customers for the shipyards. We may hear less from Maritimt Forum Nordvest and more from GATH, an association that aims to bring these companies together and create what they themselves describe as an international competence hub for aquaculture.

The government has presented a package of NOK 60 billion to “green” the position of industry. Maritime industry hopes a slice of this will help them out of the valley of waves. That offshore wind vessels, new types of green fuel and the construction of autonome ships can lift the industry up and forward.

Lived well on the oil
There is no doubt that Norwegian shipyards have a role to play in the transition to a more environmentally friendly ship.The heyday was based on delivering ships to an industry with super profits and a strong willingness to pay.
The question is whether the shipyards manage the transition to tender rounds where prices are pushed in a completely different way than when one lived high on the shoulders of the oil industry.
If the shipyards do not succeed, we can look far for the maritime cluster.
Source: Published: Saturday, July 2, 2022 at 13:30
(Translated with Google translator)

Norway should of moved into the Megaycht business.
Got the skills and a reputation for quality, could learn fast.

They have. Both Ulstein and Kleven have built Super Yachts and have more on the drawing board.

But super yachts need even less big equipment than Expedition Cruise Ships, like large AHC Offshore Cranes, big AH winches etc.
That is part of what the Maritime Cluster make and export to wherever vessels of Norwegian design is built in the world.