Increase in ships flying the Norwegian flag

Norwegian Flag Ships, boat shipNorwegian Flag. Foto: Falch, Knut (SCANPIX)

Increase in international ships flying the Red, White and Blue

At the end of this month, 600 ships were registered in the Norwegian International Ship Register (NIS). It is the highest number since 2008.


Until 2015, the ship register was characterized by a decline. In 2014 there were 522 ships in registered in the Norwegian International Ships Register (NIS), a register that was established in 1987 to ensure a competitive alternative for Norwegian shipping companies operating in international waters.

In 2016, the Government eased up on the the regulatory framework for registration in NIS. Now Maritime Director, Olav Akselsen, notes that 54 of the vessels that have flagged into NIS since January 2016 can be directly linked to these changes.

– This is very good news for the entire maritime industry in Norway, and with increased tonnage we get a greater impact in international maritime forums. A fleet in growth can also contribute to opportunities for Norwegian sailors, says Akselsen.

The Minister of Industry, Torbjørn Røe Isaksen (Conservatives), is pleased with the development and emphasizes that a large Norwegian fleet is important in securing jobs and maintaining maritime competence.

The gross tonnage registered in NIS now at over 15 million. This is an increase of 14.3 per cent since 2014.


The changes introduced by the Government in 2016 meant, among other things, a softening of limitations regarding operational areas.

Unlike ships registered in the Norwegian Ordinary Ship Register (NOR), NIS registered ships could not carry cargo or passengers between Norwegian ports. The establishment of NIS also meant that Norwegian ships operated from Norway could employ foreign crew who could be paid according to terms pertinent to their home countries.

The change in 2016 meant that NIS ships can now transport freight between Norwegian ports as part of a European route, and NIS registered construction vessels can operate on the Norwegian continental shelf.

The Government also strengthened the grant scheme to allow shipping companies to employ more Norwegian seamen on NIS registered ships.


CEO of the Norwegian Ship owners’ Association, Harald Solberg, is very pleased with the development.

-This is gratifying news and shows that an active maritime policy is working. The Government’s maritime strategy implemented several important measures to strengthen the Norwegian flag. Now we see the result, he says to NTB.

He points out that a large number of ships sailing under the Norwegian flag are an important prerequisite for Norway to remain a leading international shipping nation and affect global shipping.

– This will be particularly important in the next few years in the field of technology development, stricter climate requirements and sustainable development of maritime industries, Solberg emphasizes.


The Leader of the Norwegian Association for Seamen, Johnny Hansen, is more skeptical about what this means for Norwegian sailors even with a bettered grant scheme.

– It would be interesting to get an overview of developments regarding the number of Norwegian seamen on these ships. I’m worried that it will be negative, Hansen tells NTB.

He points out that many ships may have been moved from NOR to NIS and that the consequence is that Norwegian seamen have been replaced by foreigners. He also fears that ships previously registered under so-called flags of convenience have now moved to NIS so that it does not affect the number of actual Norwegian ships.

Differences between NIS and NOR

Vessel types


  • Passenger,- and cargo ships
  • Mobile offshore units


  • Mandatory registration for all Norwegian ships of 15 meters and more
  • Voluntary registration of Norwegian fishing- and commercial vessels less than 15 meters
  • Voluntary registration of pleasure vessels between 7 – 14, 99 meters

Trade area


Certain trade area restrictions on Norwegian ports/ Norwegian continental shelf apply.


No such restrictions.

Owner’s nationality


  • The NIS is open to owners of all nationalities.


  • Owners must be Norwegian or EU companies or individuals.

Manning/The Master


  • The Master must hold a Norwegian or EU/EEA citizenship, or apply for an exemption from the nationality requirement.
  • Seafarers with non-Norwegian Certificate of Competency (COC) serving as Captain must complete a course in Norwegian maritime legislation (“NIS course”).


  • The Master must hold a Norwegian or EU/EEA citizenship, or hold a specific permit to work in Norway.
  • Seafarers with non-Norwegian Certificate of Competency (COC)  serving as Captain must complete a course in Norwegian maritime legislation (“NIS course”).

Survey and issuance of statutory certificates


  • All NIS-vessels of 500 GT and more classed by a recognized organization are delegated to class according to the Class Agreement.
  • The NMA supervises vessels of less than 500 GT.
  • Delegation of Mobile Offshore Units is mainly limited to hull and machinery, ISPS, ISPP, EIAPP and IAPP.


  • The NMA is in charge of surveys, inspections and issuance of statutory certificates.
  • Issuance of international ship certificates for cargo ships of 500 GT and more may be delegated to class upon request of the owner.
  • Delegation of Mobile Offshore Units is mainly limited to hull and machinery, ISPS, ISPP, EIAPP and IAPP.

(Norwegian Maritime Authority)



© NTB Scanpix / Norway Today