Interview with Geir-Erik Nilsen, KONGSBERG Brazil

Geir-Erik Nilsen is the managing director of KONGSBERG Brazil

KONGSBERG is celebrating 10 years in Brazil. How do you evaluate the company’s path during these years?

Even though world-class technology solutions provided by KONGSBERG has been in use in the Brazilian Maritime Industry for more than 30 years, it was only in December 2009 Kongsberg Maritime opened our offices here in Centro, Rio de Janeiro, to have a local presence and to be able to better support our customers here in Brazil and also the rest of South America.

These 10 years were marked by hard work and also important achievements, building and expanding a strong local presence with a Long term commitment and representing a Vital part of our Global Organization.

The establishment of a Brazilian Entity was a challenge specially if we consider Brazil as a high cost country with a high tax burden on imported goods and services, tax laws, importation laws, special regimes and a complex set of Labor laws.

These facts did not prevent the company from soon becoming a success history. After these 10 years, Kongsberg Brazil is established in a 2,000 sq meters building in Downtown Centro – Rio de Janeiro with 64 employees and also a 13,000 sq meters site located in Niterói with 59 employees. Today we are serving a fleet of approx. 400+ vessels with Kongsberg equipment in the region that we operate.             

In April this year, Kongsberg acquired Rolls Royce Commercial Marine. With this, KONGSBERG’s position as a world-class supplier of technology for the maritime industry has been strengthened. We are now an even more complete technology supplier, and a strategically important supplier for shipping companies, shipyards, as well as other customers and partners. Our equipment is installed on more than 30,000 vessels worldwide and with the acquisition of Rolls Royce Commercial Marine, KONGSBERG is now represented in 40 countries. Here in South America we now have two offices in Brazil and one in Chile. Kongsberg worldwide has close to 11,000 employees and an annual turnover of more than NOK 22 billion. We have welcomed 3,600 highly skilled new colleagues from after the acquisition and together we are delivering a fast and smooth integration of people, cultures, products, solutions and innovation. Through world-class technology, customer focus, the power to innovate and the willingness to change.

Kongsberg as a company has an active attitude towards social responsibility sponsoring some social projects and initiatives, such as Karanba, Bola pra Frente and Dream Learn Work. Karanba is a social project that helps a large number of children from slum areas to achieve personal development and education using football as an instrument. Dream Learn Work also works with people from poor neighborhoods helping on the development of their professional skills and supporting them to enter the formal job market by encouraging them on their choice of education through information and inspiration meetings and external activities, such as motivational workshops, visits, and seminars.

How is KONGSBERG delivering new and innovative solutions in the market today?

While KONGSBERG has always been a leader within automation, navigation and control systems, former Rolls Royce Commercial Marine is complementary through its established range of propellers and propulsion systems, as well as a very successful ship design section. Together, we hold leading positions within digitalization, ship intelligence and concepts for autonomy. As a single global organization with such a unique position in the market, our ambition is to lead the development of the future maritime industry globally in close cooperation with customers and partners. Kongsberg is known for providing leading technological solutions in our traditional business areas. Our competitiveness depends on facilitating efficient and safe operations in all conditions. This also contributes to lowering greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating other negative environmental effects. In the maritime segment, some 30,000 ships that operate worldwide already carry our products. We provide sensor systems that make it possible to monitor on-board functions accurately, modern automation systems that are important for optimal power supply management on board and management systems that enable optimal vessel maneuverability.

80% of Kongsberg’s activity is focused on the ocean, but not just on offshore and shipping. Our technology is growing market share in fast developing industries, such as aquaculture and renewable energy, and we see huge potential for tailoring solutions based on our long maritime expertise for new business opportunities – both above and below sea level.

We see the challenges facing the world in terms of climate, transport, security, food and energy, we know that much of the solution lies in the ocean and that technology will play a central role in the future. Today, only 2 percent of the food we consume comes from the ocean. This means that the growth opportunities here are great, and we have the technology that can ensure sustainable fishing. In addition, it is worth mentioning that 90 per cent of the world's biomass is found in the ocean, which is an important food source for the future. Here we can contribute with technology to exploit the opportunities.

As of today, KONGSBERG has developed advanced satellite technology to detect oil spills in the ocean as well as illegal fishing, and an autonomous underwater vehicle; “Hugin”, which is used for mapping the seabed. Together with Yara, we have also developed the world's first electric, autonomous and zero-emission container ship; “Yara Birkeland”, which will replace 40,000 truckloads per year from roads in populated and urban areas.

In some of the markets where we operate, there is a greater focus on costs. There is often less willingness and capacity to invest in new technology than before. It is therefore important that our products and solutions can provide both operational savings and reduced emissions. An example of this is hybrid power supply solutions that make it possible to combine electrical and traditional solutions on vessels that are in operation.

For Kongsberg Sustainable Innovation is important, we have a long-term commitment to the reduction of greenhouse gases and other negative environmental effects. Our most important contribution is to use our technology and expertise to develop climate-friendly solutions for our customers. This effort will often coincide with the desire to reduce costs and increase efficiency and security. On World Ocean Day, representatives from KONGSBERG participated at UN Global Compact’s launch of the newly formed Sustainable Ocean Business Action Platform. This initiative is a three-year long program aiming to bring together business, civil society, the UN and Governments to advance the ocean economy and sustainable development of the oceans. The ocean is the world’s greatest common resource. While it holds great potential to deliver on the 2030 Agenda and UNs 17 Global Goals, it also meets an increasing global demand for more sustainable food, energy, minerals and transportation for a growing world population. With our expertise, technology and solutions in many strategical areas related to the oceans, we will be an active contributor to the platform which is to be developed. Technology for zero emission transportoffshore windocean research and solving issues related to illegal fishery are examples of how we see Kongsberg can contribute with sustainable innovation.

What are the plans KONGSBERG is taking for the future in Brazil?

KONGSBERG has a long term plan in Brazil, and the future is bright. Our goal is to continue supporting our customers in all of the South America region, providing technical and commercial support on all products delivered by Kongsberg. We are constantly investing on training of our employees, and have successfully managed to build up a highly skilled team, with expertise on several different products and systems. Kongsberg has also invested on a World Class training facilities for customers, with state of the art simulators in both Niterói and Rio de Janeiro offices.

We have today several ongoing projects in Brazil, and due to our wide range of products, we are able to provide solutions for different market segments, from small Tug Boats to large and complex Drilling Units. The projects are covering different scopes such as thrusters and engines overhauls, system upgrades and retrofits, and several other services. There is also an increasing activity in the training business, where we provide not only product specific training, but also Nautical Institute and DNV GL certified courses.

In an increasingly globalized maritime industry, the ability to offer world-leading technology alongside a local presence amongst our customers is vital. Size and scale is important in order to be able to offer clients the geographic presence they seek. Having said that, we have had a very strong presence already in Brazil for 10 years with Kongsberg Maritime do Brasil, where we work with major shipping and energy companies on highly diverse projects of national and international significance. We can now offer even more capabilities, acting as a turnkey supplier for the broadest range of technology and services that enable safety, efficiency and sustainability for all our customers in South America and specially Brazil.