With the widespread disruption to the maritime event calendar in 2020, Nor-Shipping 2021 has emerged as the natural hub for the industry to gather, re-energise and focus on achieving future ambitions. However, when it’s difficult to predict what will happen tomorrow, let alone next summer, clear challenges remain. Here Karen Algaard, Director Operations and Strategy, explains how Nor-Shipping is adapting to ensure it safeguards and supports its stakeholders.
“The industry needs something positive and tangible to focus on, now more than ever, and that’s Nor-Shipping, June 2021.”
Karen Algaard isn’t afraid to confront the elephant in the room. After a year like no other, where the maritime events calendar has been nothing short of devastated, the question marks over future large-scale gatherings hang heavy in the air. Nor-Shipping, with its biennial schedule, has been safeguarded from the ramifications that have derailed other big names, but it still faces a clear challenge.
One that Algaard is keen to tackle head on.
“It’d be naïve to think otherwise,” she states matter-of-factly, “but we have contingency plans in place (more on that later) and are constantly monitoring the situation to ensure we adopt an approach defined by optimal safety, responsibility and the best results for exhibitors, participants and all attendees.”
“We’re confident of delivering a very successful Nor-Shipping in 2021 and, from the feedback we’re receiving industry-wide, so are our customers. The signs so far are very promising.”
A platform for ambition
Algaard, who joined from Höegh LNG, where she was Head of Contract Management and Controlling, in March this year (“perfect timing”, she jokes) is keen to substantiate the “very promising” remark.
On the business front she reveals that over 75% of planned exhibition space at the halls in Lillestrøm, near Oslo, is now booked (“and we’re getting new bookings on a weekly basis”). In addition, co-director Per Martin Tanggaard has now secured all of the headline partners for Nor-Shipping 2021 – the main and leading partners are due to be revealed imminently – with only a few remaining opportunities for new and commercial partnerships. Importantly, Algaard adds, away from the revenue streams, the “buzz” is growing within the industry itself, fuelled by Nor-Shipping’s focus on #ACTION and sustainable success within the ocean space. It’s the kind of positivity, she says, that can help empower businesses in these difficult times.
“Short-term challenges don’t override the need for long-term solutions,” she states. “To meet the ambitions of our industry and society; to use ocean resources in a responsible, sustainable manner; to meet the targets of the IMO on the decarbonisation of shipping – these things don’t happen in isolation. We need platforms for development, strategy, knowledge sharing and collaboration. And Nor-Shipping, with its established focus on innovation, partnerships and enabling the Blue Economy is the perfect platform. Our industry is well-aware of that and, from everything we hear in the marketplace, they’re looking forward to shifting up a gear and really engaging with one another at Nor-Shipping. There’s real excitement.”
But of course – going back to confront that elephant – there must also be real concern.
After all, if there’s one thing COVID-19 has taught us it’s that there is “no business as usual” – things change, and fast. So, how can anyone plan for that?
Algaard is a mixture of pragmatism and positivity.
She notes that the timing of the 2021 Your Arena For Ocean Solutions obviously works in the team’s favour. As does the fact that parent company, Norges Varemesse, runs a vast array of different, large scale events at their exhibition halls – meaning professional routines and safety infrastructure will be firmly tried and tested (a new set of guidelines for the venue is available here) prior to next year. These will evolve in line with local government and international rules and regulations.
So, she says, everything will be in place to run the planned event in a safe, secure manner.
If this cannot happen, for obvious reasons, the team are working on a variety of different “scenarios”.
“The most serious of these is cancellation,” Algaard states candidly. “In line with this risk we’d like to reassure exhibitors that if we are forced to cancel, you will get ALL registration and stand fees back. There’s no hiding behind force majeure clauses, or similar, just a simple money back promise. That way there’s zero risk when booking Nor-Shipping 2021, just peace of mind and something to look forward to.”
Commitment to deliver
Although Algaard declines to detail all the scenarios the team are working on – “these will evolve in line with the situation” – she does note that, in the event of a cancelled or scaled down week, there is potential for a hybrid solution with much of the activity migrating online.
“For example,” she explains, “the Ocean Leadership Conference and the Blue Talks could still be conducted at our new, state-of-the-art studios in Lillestrøm. This facility, called NOVA Studios, is world-class and has the capacity to welcome participants, and an audience if possible, for high quality events that could be live-streamed around the world. This would enable knowledge sharing and support the industry, while we’d also look into further digital solutions to meet the needs of our valued customers, participants and wider audiences.”
“We’re here to support our industry and help accelerate responsible, successful long-term development,” she comments. “COVID-19 has the potential to change the way we do that, but not the mission itself. That is the essence of Nor-Shipping.”
Algaard, and the industry as a whole no doubt, will be watching upcoming developments (both COVID and event related) over the next few months closely. Time is on Nor-Shipping’s side, of course, and the fact that the event is still in its original calendar slot (1-4 June 2021) is a boon for planning purposes.
“It gives the industry that natural focal point,” Algaard notes, “a ring on the calendar that everyone can look forward to – an opportunity to really kickstart activity and ambition again. I can’t wait… and I’m sure I’m not the only one.”
Concluding on a personal note, Algaard says she’s enjoyed the “rather different” start to her role, as well as getting to know her new team, including Tanggaard, who, as Director External Relations, sits alongside her on the “top management” tier.
“Per Martin focuses on working closely with key partners and the maritime industry, while I dedicate my time to long-term strategic planning and day-to-day business management. Together, the whole team has ambitions to build on the huge success of our 2019 event and tailor Nor-Shipping to meet the changing needs of this dynamic, exciting industry.”
“We’re here for the long-term,” she smiles. “But in the meantime, we’ll do everything we can to support our exhibitors, visitors and all our stakeholders through any short-term challenges.”
“I look forward to stressing that to everyone, face-to-face, in June next year.”