Generations of maritime history
Through fifteen decades, Wilh. Wilhelmsen – recognised world-wide by the initials WW – has influenced and reflected Norwegian shipping and seafaring. The company’s longevity can be attributed to its ability to adapt to changes and new technology through the decades.
A long history has given WW its own traditions and corporate culture. While engaged in most shipping activities under sail, steam and motor, tramp and tanker trade, oil drilling, offshore supply and maritime services, WW is first and foremost associated with global liner services.
WW in a nutshell
Today, WW offers global car and ro-ro customer’s high quality sea transportation and integrated logistics solutions from factory to dealer through its operating companies, Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics, EUKOR Car Carriers and American Roll-on Roll-off Carrier – all operated together with its Swedish partner Wallenius Lines.
WW also occupies a leading position in the global maritime service industry through Wilhelmsen Maritime Services, delivering products and services to the shipyard industry and the world’s merchant fleet.
The white company flag with a blue “W”, two pale blue rings on a black funnel and the “T” nomenclature are recognised features in any port.
A short resume of our history
Although shipping is by nature global, our heritage is Norwegian. At the age of 22, Morten Wilhelm Wilhelmsen established the company in the small coastal city of Tønsberg, on 1 October 1861. His first investment was in the sailing vessel Mathilde.
The transition from sail to steam in the Norwegian merchant fleet came in the 1880s, and the company bought its first steam freighter Talabot in 1887. Talabot’s performance exceeded all expectations, and from the company’s very first steamship purchase, the letter “T” would become synonymous with the Wilhelmsen naming tradition. Talabot is considered to be one of the pioneer vessels in the transition from sail to steam in Norwegian maritime history.
During the next decades the company evolved, and certain common treads appeared that would come to signify WW’s own traditions and corporate culture.
One such tread is diversity. WW has operated within many shipping segments: We had the largest tanker fleet in Norway already before World War One, and were in the tanker trade all up to the 1960’s. We have owned and operated bulk carriers and container vessels. When Norway discovered oil in 1969, we became a major player in the oil service industry, owning and operating both oil rigs and supply vessels.
But first and foremost WW has been associated with global liner services
The elegant black liner vessels with the two pale blue rings on a black funnel, together with the white company flag with a blue “W” soon became a familiar sight in all the major ports of the world. Today, our vessels are red, but both the funnel and our company flag are the same.
Caution and long-term development
Another tread is caution and long-term development. Being family owned, the Wilhelmsen founders navigated with great skill through the transition from sail to steam to motor vessels. We did not put all our eggs in the same basket for short-term profit, but always looked years ahead. That has paid off in the cyclical deep ocean shipping business.
WW also has a long history of partnerships. Today, we are partners with Swedish Wallenius Lines in our shipping operations and have a variety of business partners within Wilhelmsen Maritime Services.
The last characteristic is the expansion of the value chain into logistics and maritime services. Quite early on, WW developed a network of agents for its liner operations. From there Barwil Agencies was founded in 1976. Two years earlier Barber International had been established to operate as a 3rd party ship manager. The past ten years this development has accelerated at a tremendous pace. Manufacturers’ have outsourced parts of their logistics chain to WW – we’ve followed the customer and developed land based logistics to better cater to customers’ needs.
In 2005, Barber International and Barwil Agencies merged into Wilhelmsen Maritime Services, and the same year Unitor was acquired. In addition the Callenberg Group was acquired on 2008. Today, we are shaping the maritime industry both at sea and in more than 2 200 ports worldwide.
We are still following these common treads as we move forward – diversity, development and partnerships.