A realm afloat
First swift sails
Norway was in contact with the outside world by sea as far back as the Stone Age.
But the Gokstad ship is representative of the swift sails which carried the Vikings
abroad as warriors, explorers, traders and settlers a thousand years ago.
Their shipbuilding skills allowed them to conquer the seas, and even to reach North America.
Shippers to the world
More recently, Norwegians won the title "shippers to the world" as their sailing vessels carried
the national flag to every part of the globe. In 1875, only the USA and Britain had more tonnage.
The rise of the steamship presented Norway with a new challenge - lack of capital to build
such vessels. Only the transition to diesel engines restored the Norwegian merchant fleet to its
Battle of the Atlantic
In the 1920s and 1930s, Norwegian shipowners built up the world’s largest fleet of tankers.
Ships from Norway played a crucial role in linking the USA and unoccupied Europe during
the Battle of the Atlantic in the Second World War. After 1945, the Norwegian merchant fleet
was substantially modernised. Shipping experience proved vital when the offshore industry arrived
in the mid-1960s.