Athens 14 March 2018
Your Excellency Minister Kouroublis
Mr. Hatzidakis, Vice President of Nea Democratia
President Veniamis – President of the Union of Greek Shipowners
Mr. Evgenidis – President of Evgenidis Foundation, the host of the conference’s premises
Mr. Pateras – President of the Maritime Chamber of Greece
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am really honored to speak here this morning on maritime and shipping issues with a large part of the Greek shipping industry present.
This because maritime issues and the shipping industry have to a large extent defined the relationship between Greece and Norway throughout history, and tied our countries close together. Our two countries have been shipping superpowers for centuries. In Norway, we take pride in our Vikings who sailed and traded internationally more than a thousand years ago. But this, I am afraid, fades completely against your proud maritime history which dates another thousand years back.
Long coastlines, islands and marine resources have shaped both the way we live and the global outlook we have. The strength of the maritime sector in my country is largely a result of Norwegian companies working alongside partners within a globalized environment. And the Greek shipping industry is among our most important partners. I would take this opportunity to express recognition to the many of you who have taken part in our bilateral maritime relationship over the years.
We see Greece also as an important ocean partner also for the future. Because our strengths are complimentary. Greek owners operate the world’s largest fleet, consisting of modern and technologically, well-developed vessels. And the Norwegian maritime cluster has the competence for making shipping safer, more energy-efficient, and technologically even more advanced. A considerable portion of future growth in the maritime industry is expected to take place in the Shipping sector. But if we look into other areas, such as the sectors of aquaculture and ocean energy, we find huge potentials for co-operation that is largely unexplored.
I can assure every-one of you here today; the maritime prospects will be even more important when we look into the future. The Ocean Space is emerging as one of the largest and most promising global resource bases, offering vast business opportunities for a whole range of Ocean Industries. Key resources will continue to come from the oceans, and shipping should remain the most cost effective and environmentally mode of long-distance transport. In this context I would like to mention the recent report by the OECD, “The Ocean Economy toward 2030”, which concludes that the Ocean economy has a potential of doubling its contribution to global value creation by 2030, to at least USD 3000 billion in annual business volume.
On this background, the Norwegian Government has decided to make the Maritime sector and our Ocean-strategy a key priority for both domestic and foreign policies. In this strategy we set out some policy initiatives for the most important Ocean Industries, such as Offshore Oil and Gas, Seafood and Maritime Industry. In the following, I will elaborate, as brief as I can, on what this strategy means, and what kind of implications this will have for the shipping sector. Please let me present seven of those measures:
First of all, Norway will apply a holistic perspective on how to meet new opportunities and challenges that the Ocean space is providing. The Norwegian economy has for too long been too dependent of the offshore oil and gas activity. Now is the time to diversify! We must look for potentials for future growth, not only in traditional but also in new and emerging maritime industries. This requires new and adaptive business models, be it for ship owners, petroleum/ energy or seafood companies, as well as banks, investors or maritime quality assurance. Economic success of innovations and new technology depends on understanding the market and choosing the right business model. That is why Norwegian maritime industry is looking into areas such as green shipping, including LNG ships, electrified, battery ferries as well as unmanned maritime vehicles. In offshore renewable energy, new concepts have been developed such as wind farms and tide and wave energy. And business initiatives on Ocean biotech, Ocean clean-up and Ocean mining are also picking up.
Second, technological innovation is key in order to meet new requirements, opportunities and to respond to international competition. Together with maritime enterprises, industry organizations, universities and research institutions, the Norwegian Government promotes, facilitates and co-fund several maritime innovation clusters. These clusters comprise the Shipping industry, Maritime energy, Offshore oil and gas exploration and Aquaculture. By the assistance from these innovation clusters, Norway can more easily adapt to a changing business environment and remain competitive in the global market. For the Shipping industry, these R&D programs involves areas like solutions for LNG-bunkering, zero-emission vessels, autonomous container ships, digitalization in shipping activities, marine cyber security and robotisation. The strategy of bringing together various institutional competences from the society at large has proven successful, and created an innovative and result-orientated dynamic.
Third, Norwegian authorities will continue its policy of no-micromanagement of the Shipping sector. No use of unduly interference. Any framework to be developed must build on a true partnership between authorities and the industry itself. The advice from the industry has to be taken seriously into account. We know that such advice is rooted in solid expertise. So far, our Government has secured the Norwegian Maritime sector and Shipping industry with a competitive regulatory framework. This has been crafted in close cooperation with industry itself. Our Government will develop this framework even further by setting out even more ambitious recommendations/ guidelines for how the authorities can assist and facilitate the industry in the best possible way.
Fourth, it is a priority for any Norwegian Government to safeguard Norwegian maritime competence and encourage more ships to sail under the Norwegian flag. The policy framework for the Shipping business, the Norwegian International Ship Register, is particularly designed to ensure that we have Norwegian crew and the broadest and most relevant maritime competence for the future.
One measure taken is the tax refund scheme for seafarers. This is the most important tool we have to safeguard maritime competence in Norway. The Government has made some updated changes to this program, and strengthened it by more than 100 million NOK. After a marked decrease in the number of seafarers through past decades, this trend has been reversed and we can now see a growth in numbers.
At the same time, measures have been taken to improve the situation at Norwegian shipyards. This includes more resources allocated to the development of advanced technology from Norwegian suppliers, and more resources to maintenance and general upgrading of the plants.
A third measure, is the special taxation arrangement for Shipping companies, the tonnage tax system. The tonnage tax, based on the net tonnage of the relevant vessel, is the final tax and the company’s income can be distributed to shareholders without further taxation.
On the other side, in order to be part of the Norwegian International Ship Register and take part in its benefits and services, the vessels concerned has to meet highly acceptable safety and working standards. These rules are based on Norway’s commitment to IMO’s (the International Maritime Organization) and ILO’s (International Labour Organization) conventions.
Fifth, the green shift has eventually reached the Shipping industry and will, I believe, give the countries that embrace it a comparative advantage. Green Shipping has already become a key area of growth for Norway. It also stands out as a most exciting new area for business opportunities. We want to develop and see more environmentally sound technical solutions and fuel on ships. With this objective, Norway is providing substantial funding through the national budget for ship-owners, shipyards and suppliers to make ships and ferries environmentally friendly. We are investing in LNG fueled vessels and electric ferries, and our first electric ferry has already transported cars and people on Norwegian fjords. I note with interest the very important position Greek vessels have in LNG-based transport, and the plan to develop the Piraeus Port as a hub for LNG bunkering. Here we see a considerable scope for strengthened bilateral cooperation.
At this point, I would also like to inform you that Norway’s financial funds for Greece, the EEA/Norway Grants, will for the coming program period (up to 2021) allocate a substantial amount to green energy in a maritime context. Our Business and Innovation program will support the Blue Growth, and Norwegian and Greek companies are encouraged to team up and work together.
Sixth, we need to develop an International Ocean Governance Regime to regulate the exploration and utilization of Ocean resources worldwide. It is paramount that the marine ecology remains sustainable when at the same time ocean industries are encouraged to operate at a larger scale. The role of the Oceans in the broader strategy-framework of resource management and global climate protection is key. Economic growth must go hand in hand with sustainability.
To assist in this endeavour, Norway’s Prime Minister Solberg announced, on the 25th of January at the World Economic Forum in Davos, that she would establish an international High-level Panel on Building a Sustainable Ocean Economy. The Panel will consist of heads of government from a select group of coastal countries around the world, both developed and developing countries.
Its objective is to increase international understanding of how Ocean Economy and the sustainable use of the Oceans can play a key role in meeting the world’s most vital needs in the years to come.
By organizing this Panel, our Prime Minister hope that we collectively can make a huge leap forward and significantly contribute to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Seventh and last, related to the previous topic is the international efforts of combatting pollution and garbage in the Oceans. This is an urgent matter. Governments have to take a leading role internationally to fight marine pollution, and move ahead with national initiatives that matters. To meet this challenge, The Norwegian Government has decided to establish an oil-spill preparedness and environmental center on the Lofoten islands, an archipelago on the north-western coast of Norway. This to promote knowledge about oil-spill protection and plastic pollution. We have already had discussions on the issue of pollution reduction in Greece, and we stand ready to work with both authorities and professionals who might be committed to this ambition.
To conclude, the Maritime industry is global in nature. Its well-being is dependent on open markets and stable, predictable conditions. We should all contribute to improved framework-conditions and the highest standards as regards maritime security, environmental sustainability and working conditions.
Norway believes that a strategic partnership between the industry and the authorities is key to ensure a competitive and a prosperous industry that is compatible with safeguarding the marine environment. The Industry knows well about the needs for new technology, new products, services and business models.
The authorities should support and facilitate, but also look into the broader picture of what an increased utilization of the Ocean space actually entails.
For this, we also need a Global Policy Platform to discuss and learn. The UN Global Compact on Oceans, a Business Action Platform to be launched in New York in June this year, can well serve as such a platform. It rests on the assumption that the industry itself must be part of the global effort to strengthen governance and to improve the standards for how we do business. The new head of this platform is the Norwegian Sturla Henriksen, the previous CEO of the Norwegian Shipowner’s Association. Mr. Henriksen’s last stop before the launch in New York will be here in Greece, at one of the most important Shipping conferences in the world, namely Posedonia. I am really looking forward to that event, because we are all now standing at the threshold of the Century of the Sea.