Witzøe and Røkke’s offshore dreams still missing the magic ingredient

Editorial
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SalMar Aker Ocean needs help.

There was no shortage of media interest when two of Norway’s leading industrialists, both ‘self made’ billionaires, announced an extensive collaboration and a strategic alliance in Trondheim on Thursday.

Both Gustav Witzøe and Kjell Inge Røkke were in great form and clearly excited. There are unimaginable possibilities here.

Read also: New strategic alliance between Aker and SalMar

In the sea
The major investment SalMar Aker Ocean will build offshore rigs for the production of salmon on the same scale that Aker has built oil rigs for many decades. Together, the duo will be at the forefront of the development of salmon farming at sea. If they succeed with their plans, the market is huge. And they are already many years ahead of the closest competitors.

Gustav Witzøe repeated what has long been a mantra for him and SalMar – to produce “on the salmon’s terms”. And salmon grow up in the Norwegian Sea, not in the fjords.

Gustav Witzøe. Photo: Aslak Berge

“We have an ambition of 150,000 tonnes by 2030,” said a bullish Gustav Witzøe.

“We will immediately start designing a third rig, perhaps with an investment decision next spring,” said Aker CEO Øyvind Eriksen.

Competence
The duo behind SalMar Aker Ocean have long and thorough expertise in both salmon farming, construction and operation of rigs – as well as plenty of access to capital and visionary leaders. SalMar has already gathered good production experience from two salmon generations in its first rig, ‘Ocean Farm 1’, and has made drawings of its next and considerably larger rig, Smart Fish Farm, and has submitted an application for a locality in the Norwegian Sea.

Then all they need to do is get started?

In order to be able to produce salmon at sea, one must have a permit – licenses. The permits are issued by the state. During the summer, SalMar has had visits from party leaders Jonas Gahr Støre (Labour Party) and Trygve Slagsvold Vedum (Social Democrats) in addition to Prime Minister Erna Solberg (H). None of them have given SalMar clear and distinct signals about permits to produce large-scale salmon at sea.

Commitments

The politicians have mentioned conditions such as delivery agreements from Norwegian companies, for the landing and processing of salmon in Norway. But they have not received any tangible commitment sufficient to start cutting 30,000 tonnes of structural steel.

Kjell Inge Røkke. Photo: Aslak Berge

Both Gustav Witzøe and, not least, an excited Kjell Inge Røkke took the opportunity to have an informal chat with the journalists present on Thursday. The message from both of them was that visionary political leadership is needed to seize the enormous opportunities that lie in producing salmon at sea.

The business players are ready. There is no shortage of either money or expertise.