With Flying Colors: Sweden’s Fleet Grows as It Welcomes Back Merchant VesselsCC0Business16:55 05.12.2017Get short URL141
Sweden’s merchant fleet is now growing for the first time in many years. After a protracted period of flagging out, Swedish vessels are once again hoisting the national flag.
Three shipping companies in western Sweden have welcomed back eight ships after a long period of flagging out, Swedish Radio reported. Flagging out is the term used when a vessel is removed from the national registry, and flies the flag of another country. Yesterday, Infrastructure Minister Tomas Eneroth arrived to Donsö in the Gothenburg archipelago to celebrate the return of the merchant vessels.
Kenny Reinhold, the chairman of the service and communication trade union’s merchant fleet department (Seko Sjöfolk), welcomed the fact that the trend finally is finally being reversed.
“We consider this to be immensely positive! It’s exactly the same shipping companies where the flagging out trend originated in 2009-2010,” Kenny Reinhold said. “Tempers were running high back then. We lost many jobs and many members. Given how upset we all were, it’s equally pleasing to welcome people back,” he added.
Since 2009, Seko Sjöfolk has lost over a thousand members. Over the same period, Sweden’s merchant fleet has more than halved, while many companies chose to move their headquarters from Sweden. In 2009, 217 vessels received Swedish shipping aid, compared to less than 100 today, according to the Delegation for Maritime Support. Sweden’s taxes were cited as one of the reasons for the flagging out, with many shipping companies ending up in Sweden’s southern neighbor Denmark.
”It feels good that the conditions in Sweden, in terms of shipping and flagging home the vessels are better now,” professor Johan Woxenius of the School of Economics at the University of Gothenburg said.
The fact that the flagging out appears to have ceased is very important for the Swedish economy, not least for insurance companies, banks and other expertise around the shipping cluster.
“Provided that we are able to break the trend and reclaim some ships, we can probably carry on with what the high risks of losing otherwise,” Woxenius added.
One of the reasons for cautious optimism within Sweden’s shipping industry is the tonnage tax introduced earlier this year. Industry officials are hopeful that the improved market conditions will cause more young Swedes to take up the seafaring profession.
“For a long time, these warning signals have been around the shipping industry deterring people from joining up. Many thought: if there is no Swedish flag flying there, there are no Swedish seamen on board either,” Johan Woxenius explained. “Now, the faith in the future is back, and I believe we can see the youth seeking education in this area,” he added.
Sweden, particularly its western coast, has a long tradition of being a shipping nation.
Although the flag of the ship does not matter much from the sheer transport perspective, as goods will enter or leave the country anyway, trade unions representatives argued that the flagging out can have a substantial negative impact in terms of loss of competence and job opportunities, in addition to losing influence in international organizations.