Norway’s oldest scheduled ferry service got underway on 2 December 1858. It was operated by Nordre Bergenhus Amts Dampskib and plied the fjords of Sogn og Fjordane. Today, this pioneering enterprise, which had a lasting impact on the region’s social history, is part of Fjord1.
Fjord1 has a long history when it comes to ferry services both in Sogn og Fjordane and Møre og Romsdal. In this region of long fjords and many islands, travel by boat has played a vital role up to the present day.
A lot has happened since 1858. Technology has evolved, from steam ships to electric ferries. The industry has evolved, too, and the company has been through a variety of periods: from free competition for ferry and boat routes, to gas ferry operations in Hordaland and Rogaland, and the establishment of Fjord1, which is now Norway’s largest ferry and high-speed passenger boat operator.
Ferry business adapts to new conditions
The Norwegian ferry and passenger boat market has undergone extensive consolidation in recent years. Earlier, there were a number of players in this market, but increasing competition and challenges proved demanding for companies. Today, there are only four players in the Norwegian ferry and passenger boat market: Fjord1, Torghatten, Norled and Boreal Transport. Fjord1 is the largest ferry company, with a market share of 50 per cent.
In order to be competitive in a ferry industry that is constantly changing, Fjord1 must be able to meet a range of challenges. It does so through its extensive experience from ferry operations, in-depth market knowledge, a highly flexible fleet and the capital strength to pursue its goals. Public tenders for ferry services have set ever more stringent requirements in recent years, and competition between the country’s ferry operators has intensified.
From public ownership to commercialisation
Until the late 1990s, most ferry companies were publicly owned. The objective was not to make a profit, and the company was merely a tool by means of which the local authorities provided a transport service. There was no competition between the companies during this period.
However, in the late 1990s, the Norwegian parliament (Storting) decided to privatise the entire ferry industry. Companies therefore went from being 100 per cent publicly owned to commercial enterprises. This required wide-ranging internal restructuring processes which, combined with unfavourable contractual terms, made it hard for them to make money during this period.
Subsequent, “second generation contracts” offered better terms, and the industry has seen its framework conditions improve steadily since the early 2000s. Today, ferry companies enjoy foreseeable contractual terms and foreseeable regulations. The companies compete on price and environment in the new contracts.
As Fjord1 sees it, the company that offers the most efficient operations will be the winner going forward. We see a ferry industry that is converting to green technology, which will require massive investments. Today, the Norwegian ferry industry leads the world in terms of technology, vessels, the environment and safety – and Fjord1 will make a significant contribution to maintaining this position in the future.
Different owners and names
Fjord1 also has a rich history when it comes to its ownership and its name. On 9 May 2001, the county council-owned ferry companies Fylkesbaatane i Sogn og Fjordane (FSF) and Møre og Romsdal Fylkesbåtar (MRF) formed a group under a limited liability company called Nordvestlandske AS, with headquarters in Florø. Sogn og Fjordane County Council owned 59 per cent, while Møre og Romsdal County Council owned 41 per cent. FSF and MRF also owned several land-based transport companies, including Mørebil, Nordfjord og Sunnmøre Billag and Sogn Billag. In December 2002, the company unveiled its new identity, Fjord1, and the parent company was renamed Fjord1 Nordvestlandske AS.
At the beginning of 2005, a major reorganisation took place. FSF change name to Fjord1 Fylkesbaatane, MRF to Fjord1 MRF and Sogn Billag to Fjord1 Sogn Billag.
In 2011, Møre og Romsdal County Council sold its shareholding in Fjord1 to Havila, based in Fosnavåg. In 2011, Fjord1 also acquired a 34 per cent stake in the newly launched Nettbuss Ekspress AS, together with Nettbuss, in order to further develop the company’s express bus service. But that same year, it was decided to sell part of the bus business to Nettbuss. From the beginning of 2012, Nettbuss acquired 51 per cent of the shares in Fjord1 Bus Møre, Fjord1 Nordfjord-Ottadalen and Fjord1 Sogn Billag. On 31 December 2012, Nettbuss acquired the remaining shares in these companies and Fjord1’s shareholding in Nettbuss Ekspress.
At the beginning of 2012, Fjord1 Fylkesbaatane and Fjord1 MRF merged with the parent company Fjord1 Nordvestlandske under the name Fjord1 AS. The subsidiaries operated separately until 23 April. Since then, Fjord1 has operated not as a group but as a company. In May 2013, Fjord1 acquired a 34 per cent stake in WF Holding AS, together with Torghatten ASA and Nordland County Council. In September the same year, WF Holding took over 80 per cent of the shares in the airline Widerøes Flyveselskap from SAS, and agreed to take over the remainder in 2016.
In November 2015, Sogn og Fjordane County Council decided to sell its shares in Fjord1 to the company’s competitor Torghatten ASA. This was in direct opposition to the wishes of company management, and led to the resignation of the managing director and some of the board. The minority shareholder, Havila, could also have taken the decision to court. On 14 July 2016, however, the sale of Fjord1 to Torghatten ASA was barred by the Norwegian Competition Authority.
On 26 August 2016, Sogn og Fjordane County Council agreed to sell 26 per cent of its stake in Fjord1 to Per Sævik’s company Havilafjord AS. The county council then owned 33 per cent and Havilafjord AS 67 per cent. On 12 May 2017, Havilafjord AS acquired the remaining 33 per cent.
Oslo Stock Exchange for 4 years
On 15 August 2017, Fjord1 was listed on the main list on the Oslo Stock Exchange, and went from beiing an AS to an ASA.
Four years later, the investment company Havila Holding AS buys up Fjord1, and the time on the stock exchange is history. On 23 August 2021, Fjord1 was removed from the Oslo Stock Exchange.