There are endless polls on which city ranks highest as an international maritime hub with invariably Singapore ranking top. Even this title has run such a vote in the not too distant past. I am not one for such navel gazing, but as a Norwegian I do think it’s worth pointing out how high little old Oslo repeatedly ranks near the top these days in the shipping cluster stakes. I note I am in illustrious company too; the latest cover star of Maritime CEO magazine, Torvald Klaveness boss, Lasse Kristoffersen, makes the case for the Norwegian capital as the most complete shipping hub in the world. Since Nor-Shipping is upon us this seems like a rich time to discuss the matter.
Part of the problem with all these polls about who is higher than whom are with the categories that decide these sort of things.
Oslo’s rise up the ranks, I would argue, comes at the expense of London, which has been deteriorating as a maritime hub for many years now, both from an owner and finance point of view. In Europe, I would say that Athens/Piraeus is the only place that matches Oslo these days, and when it comes to finance it even trumps mighty Singapore, which while trying hard has failed to get local banks to truly catch on to the allure of shipping.
Oslo’s only match when it comes to finance is across the pond in New York. However, these two cities are very different in their attitude to shipping. In Oslo, there have been many old owners, steeped in shipping lore, who have invested in KS structures. I have participated in a quite a few of these structures and can attest that those investing are really professional investors who know shipping inside out, unlike much of what I have seen in New York.
Another important point to bear in mind about Oslo’s growing status as a key ship finance centre is that 50% of investments – including the bondholder market – are now foreigners with parties from the US, UK and Greece leading the way.
Both the depth of the market and the ease with which to conduct business set Oslo just above all of its peers in the ship finance game – transactions can be concluded very fast here.
Moreover, authorities are attuned to the business, closer to shipping than any other country bar perhaps Singapore. I have seen this close up in helping set up a shipping bank in Oslo recently.
In short, Nor-Shipping has much to celebrate.