A long and narrow geography on the periphery of major markets makes Norway dependent on efficient logistics and transportation solutions. A single short sea ship can take 2-300 trucks off the road, contributing to fewer traffic accidents, reduced emissions, shorter queues and less road wear. And yet transportation policies continue to head in the wrong direction.
A series of Norwegian governments have expressed the ambition of stimulating growth in water-borne transport. The present government must be willing to take new initiatives and demonstrate the ability to realise the plans laid out in their own Sundvolden government platform: “The government will adopt measures to make it easier to transport more goods by sea. This will generate both traffic safety and environmental benefits, by considerably reducing the number of heavy trucks trafficking Norwegian roads.
We fully expect that the government will address this situation as promised, and facilitate the moving of more goods by the seaway.
Prognoses for economic and population growth foresee an increase in transport of goods by 35-40 per cent, seen in tonnes per kilometre, going into 2040. Strong relative growth is expected in road transportation, with less for water-borne. This presents major challenges to our national transportation system. The key to meeting these challenges lies in shifting a significant amount of goods from land to sea.
The following areas must receive priority:
- The authorities must put in place a new set of rules governing fees and charges that will strengthen the relative competitiveness of short sea shipping. Water-borne transportation is burdened with nearly four times the number of charges, fees and compensations as road transport. This weakens the relative competitiveness of water-borne transport compared to road.
- In order to strengthen the competitiveness of water-borne transportation, a bonus scheme for transferring cargo from land to sea must be established, with a state-funded premium for choosing the seaway over the highway.
- Water-borne transport is the most energy efficient form of transportation, yet there is potential for improvement through reducing the age of the fleet, which currently averages 30 years. Targeted measures for fleet renewal such as a temporary refund solution for scrapping, increased depreciation for ships in short sea traffic, and a top-up financing scheme, with comparable market access guarantees from Export Credit Norway and GIEK, will contribute to a more competitive, greener and more modern fleet.
- The Norwegian flag must be strengthened. Norwegian-specific cabotage rules must be abolished in NIS and coupled with a statutory, competitive net wage scheme applying to NIS-registered ships. Parallel to this, the level of service in the Norwegian Maritime Authority must be improved.
- The entire system for handling water-borne traffic – including pilotage – must be made more goal-oriented, more efficient, and more modern.
- Development and operation of ports and associated land-based infrastructure must receive a more comprehensive prioritisation than today. Steps must be taken to achieve more efficient port operations and a major revitalisation of infrastructure for water-borne transportation.