Shipping hordes sail into Oslo

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Thousands of shipowners, brokers, builders and others working in the shipping industry have anchored up in Oslo this week for the Nor-Shipping conference and exhibition, held every other year in the Norwegian capital. This year’s gathering has shaped up as the largest ever, despite the global financial crisis.

Around 25,000 delegates from 80 countries are attending the Nor-Shipping extravaganza, providing welcome relief for the hotel business in and around Oslo. It’s been suffering from a sharp decline in bookings so far this year, but the shipping folks have helped fill rooms from Fredrikstad in the south to Hamar in the north. Local tourism industry officials told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Tuesday morning that hotels in the city were packed and it was difficult to find rooms for anyone without reservations.

Oslo restaurants also hoped for booming business during the week, as shipping industry personnel descended on the capital for a week of deal-making and socializing. Many would also be attending a long list of invitation-only events, from a fjord-side barbecue sponsored by classification society Det Norske Veritas to chartered cruises on the fjord.

The exhibit itself takes place at the Norwegian Trade Fair (Norges Varemesse) site at Lillestrøm, north of the city. Around 1,100 exhibitors would be peddling their goods and services for four days, while conferences went on around the exhibition halls.

The official opening conference Tuesday was to feature the president of the Norwegian Shipowners Association, Elisabeth Grieg, government ministers Erik Solheim and Sylvia Brustad and a long string of shipping executives including the chairman of Royal Caribbean Cruises Richard Fain and the chief executive of liner shipping company Wilh Wilhemsen, Ingar Skaug.

Many agree that the most important aspect of the Nor-Shipping week is all the mingling and networking that goes on. Organizers were relieved by the turnout, the largest on record.

“Since we began planning this event the world has turned upside down,” Tollef Schiander of Nor-Shipping told news service E24, referring to the onset of the financial crisis last fall. Now he hoped the exhibitors would receive plenty of potentially lucrative visits from prospective customers.