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My cluster: personal insights inside Oslo

Christina Dup Roos is a British exile living in Oslo and who has spent her career deep inside the Oslo shipping cluster working within a number of key organisations that have been shaping not only the Norwegian shipping cluster, but the international industry too. For journalists today she is a lovable and highly respected force within Oslo-based PR and communications group Blue-C .

I’ll never the forget the day I started my career in the maritime industry. It was a chilly morning on 1 April 1982 when I as a somewhat apprehensive 21-year-old crossed the imposing threshold of the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association (NSA) in the heart of Oslo. I was to become PA to Trygve Meyer, Deputy MD of tanker owners’ organization Intertanko, which had offices in the NSA building at that time.

I’ve never looked back. I went on to become Deputy Manager of Intertanko’s communications department, and was immediately overwhelmed by all the challenges the industry was facing, from oil spills and charter-party issues to war-risks policies, fuel quality, environmental issues, port dues, ship recycling and a whole lot more. Some days my head was swimming!

But what struck me then – and still does – is how close-knit the maritime industry is, like one big (but not necessarily always happy!) family working towards common goals. It’s also exciting to be part of a global industry that transports around 90% of world trade. It really does make the world go around.

While I’ve visited numerous maritime hubs in my current role as Partner and Press Relations Manager at maritime PR and content specialist Blue-C, I still think there’s something exceptional about the Oslo cluster.

I’ve traditionally organized an annual press tour for international maritime editors to the local cluster in Sunnmøre on Norway’s spectacular west coast. What always fascinates both me and my gang of ‘journos’ is that cluster’s willingness to collaborate while often competing for the same business. They’ve managed to strike a great balance. That attitude is evident on an even bigger scale here in Oslo.

As one of the world’s most complete clusters, within a few minutes’ walk or a short taxi ride you can be sitting down with a shipping bank, classification society, shipowner, shipbroker, marine insurer, maritime law firm, equipment supplier, academic institution or even an NGO. That close proximity enables people to thrash out issues and find solutions face to face. I think our high level of trust also supports the successful exchange of ideas.

It’s no surprise to me that Oslo has been ranked the world’s second most innovative and entrepreneurial maritime city. Some amazing new technologies have seen the light of day here because we have an arena to test things out and bring ideas to fruition. We listen to the concerns of young people starting out in the business, we learn from other industries and we have a lively start-up environment. We’re also fortunate that succeeding governments understand and support maritime as a key national industry.

Oslo of course also plays host to Nor-Shipping, one of the world’s most important maritime exhibitions that draws shipping people from all corners of the globe. Oslo during Nor-Shipping week really does become a vibrant melting pot and dynamic networking hub. You can almost hear the buzz of deals being done!

Another positive feature – and of our national cluster as a whole – is the relatively flat structure common to most maritime workplaces, despite the industry’s rather conservative reputation. Shipowners will quite as readily sit down with equipment suppliers as they would with a banker (perhaps even more readily!).

It’s certainly a cluster that is both fun and rewarding to work in, and I’m proud of the collective contribution we make to Norway’s distinguished record as a seafaring nation and centre of innovation.

One of biggest compliments I’ve received during my time at Blue-C, and indeed my entire career, was from Per Wiggo Richardsen, who at the time was Head of Media Relations at DNV (as it was then). During a stopover on the way back from a press trip in Dubai, where Per Wiggo hosted us at DNV’s local office, he pointed out to me that here we sit in Oslo shepherding trade journalists on tours not only around the local companies in far-flung destinations but also Norwegian companies with a presence in those places. Many of them are headquartered right here in Oslo. Providing a forum to share news and build relationships with the media makes us an important part of the cluster fabric, Per Wiggo said. That was very heartening. For my part, I really enjoy facilitating this interaction tremendously and consider myself lucky.

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