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Norwegian company will bring new technology to the shipping industry

Apr 08, 2019
Norway’s largest shipping company, Wilhelmsen Holding ASA, is aiming to bring cutting- edge technology to the maritime industry following the launch of its subsidiary Raa Labs in November 2018.

Thomas WilhelmsenThe company, which has received funding of $2 million from Wilhelmsen, is aptly named; Raa being the old Norse name for the yard-arm of the highly efficient square sail used on Viking longships that enabled Scandinavians to lead the world in navigating the world’s oceans.

Wilhelmsen Holdings ASA’s 43-year-old CEO Thomas Wilhelmsen wants his group to lead in developing new maritime technology by using a blend of new innovation with traditional skills.

“I don’t want this company to be seen as some kind of digital whizz kid,” he said. “What we want to do is take that conventional platform and utilize new digital skills to build upon it, positioning ourselves to take advantage of future business opportunities.”

Thomas continued, “It’s about a balance, a union, not one thing or the other – but two competencies informing and feeding off one another to shape a better business, a better industry. One that delivers enhanced value, transparency and sustainability.”

Raa Labs’ CEO Ari Marjamaa Marjamaa said, “A company with this backing, with these resources and access to competence can create solutions beyond your imagination. The Raa Labs’ team brings solid experience from technology companies, software development and the maritime industry, putting us in a unique position to create value for our customers in the industry.”

Last year, Wilhelmsen Holding launched the world’s first autonomous shipping firm, Massterly. The company aims to establish the infrastructure and services needed to design and operate autonomous vessels, creating, amongst other things, a network of land-based control centres to monitor and operate a new breed of ships. The first centre is to be based at the group HQ in Lysaker, Oslo.

“If we want to help shape the future of the industry, not just this business, we have to position ourselves at the vanguard of development,” said Thomas. “Autonomous shipping may seem like a distant dream, but, through projects such as the Yara Birkeland, Yara’s battery powered autonomous container ship launching in 2019 (see The Mover, January 2018), it will be a reality, albeit on a limited scale, very soon. There’s a need for the infrastructure and solutions to support that development and we can achieve commercial advantage by being a first mover in delivering it.” 

Even though autonomy may not be for everyone, Wilhelmsen Holding believes elements of the new technology will have universal appeal.

Photo: Thomas Wilhelmsen


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