Expanding China Connetions

Heidi Baugstø sits in the driving seat of North Sea Rigs and Ocean Aquafarms. Both are companies in the process of developing long-term business relationships in China. Highly exciting, and just what both the government and the wider business community want!

Everybody can see that China, the second largest economy in the world and growing at a yearly pace of 8-10%, represents massive business opportunities. For an energy, maritime and marine-oriented industry as the Norwegian, the potential is even bigger.

However, Norwegian-Chinese relations have been anything but simple the last years. Since the Chinese dissident Liu Xiabo was awarded the Nobel Peace Price in 2010, the bi-lateral relations have been ice cold. This very much to the frustration of business leaders all over Norway.

Paving the way

Based on this background it is both refreshing and motivating to observe those (still far too few) local companies who actually succeed in developing strong long-term relations with Chinese companies and communities.

North Sea Rigs and Ocean Aquafarms are to prominent examples, and Heidi Baugstø serves as Chairman of the Board in both of them.

– Our industrial relationship with China started in 2004 with Offshore Rig Services AS. This marked the start of a partnership involving companies like NOV, Siemens, Kongsberg Maritime, Rolls Royce and Wartsila. The first rigs were contracted with CIMC Yantai Raffles, and they are still our main partner in China. Then, in 2011, North Sea Rigs was established, and signed a contract for building its first rig in Yantai, China in 2012, Baugstø says.

More rigs followed, till the oil price nose-dived in 2014. What happened next serves as a good illustration of the increasing amount of technology transfer which is taking place between the oil industry and the marine industries like fish farming.

– Like everyone else in the oil industry, we experienced a downturn from 2014. However, our industrial partnership and well-established relations with China formed a solid base for developing new solutions and new technology in growth areas like fish-farming.

Technology transfer

This has resulted in the company Ocean Aqua Farms, a strategic partnership with CIMC Yantai Raffles, and the concept Hex Box. Hex Box is a concept for establishing fish-farms further away from shore for environmental reasons.

– The first generation of Hex Box is designed for farming salmon. Further on we plan to develop solutions for other fish species globally including China. Fish-farming is a fast growing industry, and the potential for expanding partnerships between Norwegian and Chinese companies is huge.

Heidi Baugstø´s engagement in developing Norwegian-Chinese relations also contains strong aspects of voluntarism and non-profit. Through her relationship with the Major of Yantai, China, she has prepared the ground for a formal relationship of co-operation between Stavanger and the City of Yantai. This has been developed together with the Mayor of Stavanger, Christine Sagen Helgø and other local politicians, and an agreement will be signed shortly.

According to her, a more formal relationship between the two cities, can open exciting opportunities in many fields. Maybe even in the area of diversity?

– The fact that I am a female business leader has undoubtedly generated attention in China. Female leaders in China are still quite rare, but It is very encouraging to see that this is slowly changing. It is equally encouraging to hear that other potential female leaders in China regard me as a role model, Heidi Baugstø concludes.


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