By Ksenia Zudinova, Director of Emirates Zone
Phd Candidate, St.-Petersburg State University of Economics
The UAE and Norway have many similarities: both have high impact of oil and gas industry, both keep on diversification of economy, both are focusing on high-end technologies. Even by Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 Norway was chosen as a short-listed country of relevance for Abu Dhabi's economic diversification. Similarity is observed in maritime sector as well. Both are oriented on building specific vessels and platforms serving oil field. How Norway did an advanced step in balancing the industry even not in best times?
Oil crisis – new sectors to discover?
Norwegian shipbuilding history counts many centuries of its existing. Especially fast it was blooming since 1990s with relatively stable oil prices and increasing demand in vessels. Main orientation was shipbuilding and construction for offshore oil and gas industry. However, due to low oil prices during last 3 years, the offshore segment went down dramatically worldwide.
Norwegian shipbuilders adapted quickly to new challenges and discovered new segments which help industry to overcome difficulties. Using longstanding offshore expertise, they start to build complex offshore farms. From the other side, being for years an industry with high investment in marine research and development, Norwegian shipbuilders emphasize more on high level fishing vessels, specialized workboats and passenger ships. Thus, being in challenging time, the industry is changing its directions in order to keep accumulated knowledge, technologies and human resources for future golden years.
Relatively new trend in Norwegian shipbuilding are vessels for ocean wind and aquaculture farms. Development of new segments of economics like aquaculture farms create needs in new shipbuilding products. Long term R&D ended up with highly specialized fish and wind farm support vessels, where Norway got almost ¾ of the market.
Other recent unique technology is autonomous container vessel run by solar energy. It is expected to be on sea by 2018 and to become fully autonomous two years later. Although the price of the first ship is almost 4 times higher than it’s human-run sister, according to researchers, it will save up to 90% of its costs by cutting crew and fuel expenditures. Demand for this technology is growing simultaneously, planning in the future to substitute big part of road transportations. The project is being built for the company-transporter of mineral fertilizers. This is rather common case for Norway of building vessels for non-standard goods to be transported.
One more great sample of Norwegian marine innovation is construction of world’s largest tunnel for vessels with enormous one-mile passageway with almost 50 m height and 36 m beam. The tunnel to be built in the rocky peninsula to cut the distance for the passing vessels.
Innovation leads development
Innovation is the key of success of Norwegian shipbuilding industry. Ability to adapt fast for continuously changing market requirements, environmentally friendly solutions and unprecedented support for R&D&I are bringing national marine industry to the top positions. Government has created two special agencies to support industry in this direction: Research Council and Innovation Norway, followed by the programmes “Maritime Opportunities – Blue Growth for a Green Future” and “Steady as she goes”. Developed marine clusters combining private yards, government, research institutions, universities, create synergetic affect for the industry.
Main focus of research is information and communication technologies, new materials and operational structure of local shipyards. When it comes to the production structure of the Norwegian shipyards, key points of success are solid investments in facilities, systemized procurement and perfect logistic schemas which lead to minimum warehouses. Being a high-cost country, it is especially important to create valuable knowledge-based advantages to offer various complex product in marine industry.
Apart from shipbuilding, focus of research is going to ships’ equipment as well: designing specialized propulsion systems, offshore equipment, appliances for fishing industry – creating extra value for the industry, using the accumulative effect of all players of the market.
The UAE and Norway marine cooperation
Being similar countries in maritime sectors, the collaboration between countries is strengthening for mutual benefit. Gratefully it is not going only in ordering ready vessels, but work on complex innovative projects together. For example, biggest wind power offshore platform in the world was built in Dubai for and with cooperation of Norwegian energy company.
It is hoped that collaboration between two countries will grow with years in innovative and high end projects which will serve globally. Norway is showing great sample of making shipbuilding industry less dependent on oil field by intensive diversification, which preserve accumulated experience and institutions till the hydrocarbon market