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Norwegian ship OSLO: The Norwegian Shipowners' Association says its 150 members are less optimistic than last year about the prospects for increased turnover and profits.

The operators of the world's sixth largest shipping fleet by market value cite falling oil prices, heightened geopolitical tensions and sluggish, uncertain growth in the global economy.

"We have seen a marked negative shift in just a short time. 2015 will be a challenging year for Norwegian maritime companies, but we must be prepared for 2016 to be even more challenging," said association CEO Sturla Henriksen. Shipowners expect their turnover to rise by only 2.3 percent in 2015 to NOK 268 billion, compared to 6.0 percent in 2014.

Operators of deep-sea vessels forecast turnover to rise 5.1 percent in 2015 compared to actual growth of 3.2 percent last year, while short-sea shipowners anticipate a 2.5 percent increase this year compared to a 5.5 percent rise in 2014.

Overall, only 35 percent expect improved operating results in 2015, compared to 72 percent last year, while 42 percent think operating results will fall - a huge jump from only 8.0 percent in 2014. The association's members also expect to park more vessels – up from 20 last year to an expected figure of 29 by the end of 2015.

Henriksen said both industry and government share responsibility for the industry's future and called for productive dialogue: "The industry itself is doing all it can to survive in these challenging times, and we are encouraged by the signals sent out by the government before Easter indicating changes in the rules governing paid leave, " he said.

"We also have high expectations for the new maritime strategy, which the government has said will be released during the spring. We consider four items to be of particular interest in the strategy: a competitive shipowning tax; strengthening the Norwegian flag by relaxing Norwegian cabotage rules; a strong net wage scheme to encourage employment of more Norwegian seafarers; and improved terms of private ownership. One thing we know: Proactive policies yield good results, even in challenging times," Henriksen concluded.

The association says Norway's maritime industry employs 110,000 people, creates NOK175 billion in economic value per annum, and pays a rate of state and local income tax that is 80 percent higher per employee than other Norwegian industry sectors.

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