Norway moots world’s first tunnel for ships

Norway's government announced plans Friday for what is being labelled the world's first tunnel for large ships, aimed at helping them navigate a treacherous section of the southwestern coast.

Norway moots world's first tunnel for ships
View of the cliffs at the end of the Stad peninsula. Photo: Ranveig/Wikimedia

Unveiling a 10-year transportation plan, the government said it would earmark one billion kroner ($175 million) for the construction of the Stad maritime tunnel, named for the peninsula notorious for high winds and heavy seas.

The 1.7-kilometre (one-mile) passageway will be carved into a piece of the peninsula's mountainside, linking two fjords, hallmarks of the Norwegian coastline.

"The project will help increase safety and navigability" in the region, the government said.

Estimated at a cost of 1.6 billion kroner, construction is expected to begin in 2018 at the earliest and take four years. It was unclear how the costs exceeding the one billion kroner provided by the government would be financed.

Tunnels already exist for barges, for example in France's Canal du Midi, but the Stad tunnel will be the world's first that can accomodate large cargo and passenger vessels up to 16,000 tonnes.

"It will be the first tunnel in the world that can be used by big boats like cargo ships or the Coastal Express," the famed tourist ship that cruises along the Norwegian coast, said Ottar Nygaard, mayor of the small town of Selje and the head of the project.

According to a recent study conducted by the specialised company Nordvest Fjordservice, the waters of the Stad peninsula have seen 46 accidents and near-accidents and 33 deaths since the end of World War II.

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Norway shipping family falls out over $2bn sale

The $2bn sale of Norwegian pump-maker Frank Mohn has caused a public spat amongst the company's founding family, with Fredrik Mohn, the grandson of the company's founder, calling it a "disgrace" and promising to block the transaction.

Norway shipping family falls out over $2bn sale
Main owner Trond Mohn has sold the family company Frank Mohn AS to Swedish Alfa Laval. Photo: Marit Hommedal / NTB Scanpix
Swedish industrial firm Alfa Laval on Monday announced the acquisition of a Norwegian underwater pump maker Frank Mohn for 13 billion kroner ($2.17 billion, 1.58 billion euros), citing big opportunities in the offshore oil and gas sector.
As soon as the deal was announced, however, Frederik Mohn  began railing against his father Trond, the company's chairman, accusing him of secretly negotiating the deal behind his back. 
"This is a disgrace!", he said in an sms statement to Sysla, a local business paper. "I learned about the sale yesterday from Trond Mohn and I thought this was a cowardly negotiation technique by my father. "
"I apologize to all employees, but especially the unions," he added. "Trond Mohn was never able to manage the generational change in the company that his father, Frank Mohn, founded . It was too difficult for him to admit that he had a good son. We have not been contacted by Alfa Laval, and it says a lot about Trond Mohn's procedure . Shame on you Trond! "
Frederik Mohn resigned suddenly as chief executive in 2012 during a probe into his other business activities by Norwegian police. The company cited "a difference in opinion over the future strategy of the company". 
In a press statement on Monday, Fredrik Mohn's investment group Perestroika issued a statement in which it says it plans to either try to preempt the bid or block it in the courts. 
Perestroika owns 32.2 percent of Wimoh, the company from which Alfa Laval has agreed to buy its stake. However, his sister and father together control the remaining 68.8 percent. Framo Development, Trond Mohn's company, owns 47.8 percent of the shares, while Marit Mohn hold 20 percent. 
"Perestroika notes that the right of first refusal to Perestroika by transfer of shares in group relationship is not revoked prior to the bid. Perestroika will consider use of pre-emption," it said in its statement.  "Perestroika will consider all options, including legal action to stop the bid."
Trond Mohn said in a press statement that he was "a bit sad" to be selling his family company, and said he was  "sorry" that his son objected. He said it was not true that the son had a right of first refusal. 
In its statement  Alfa Laval  said the deal was attractive because global demand for oil is expected to rise by 27 percent between 2012 and 2035.

The Norwegian company — based in Bergen with 1,200 employees — had 3.4 billion kroner in sales in 2013, according to the statement, making it an eighth of the size of Alfa Laval.
Its main marine product, a submerged cargo pumping system sold under the brand Framo, helps to maximise the use of tankers allowing quicker turnaround times.
"Frank Mohn is an excellent company … it has highly skilled employees, high quality products and a market-leading position within segments offering attractive long-term growth prospects," said Lars Renstroem chief executive of the Alfa Laval Group in a statement.
Alfa Laval said it planned to keep the Norwegian company and its management intact but did not specify when the purchase would be completed.
The father and son duo made headlines last year when they were revealed to be Norway's highest earners.