It’s small, beautiful, surrounded by stunning nature and, somewhat surprisingly, a global epicentre of maritime software development, e-Navigation and performance management innovation. Welcome to Egersund, home of NAVTOR.
“Why would we want to be anywhere else?”
Tor Svanes, NAVTOR’s Founder and CEO, seems surprised by the question relating to the “unusual” location of the company HQ.
Any suggestion that the maritime technology firm might relocate away from Egersund, a picturesque town of 11,000 inhabitants 75km south of Stavanger, Norway, is met with either a smiling shake of the head, a laugh, or an answer similar to that above.
And, to be fair to Svanes, the novel location hasn’t exactly held the firm back.
“We currently have e-Navigation and performance monitoring and optimisation products and services on close to 9,000 vessels,” he notes. “We’re the world’s number one distributor of ENCs and, with our mission to simplify life at sea, delivering smart shipping benefits for both seafarers and shipowners and operators, are leading the global industry in terms of digital innovation.
“Rather than holding us back, I’d say Egersund has worked perfectly.”
And looking out the window of the towering Egersund Forum development, where NAVTOR has three floors of offices, you can immediately spot some of the appeal.
The town is typical of Norwegian coastal settlements in the way it sympathetically nestles into nature, adapting to the environment rather than trying to overwhelm it. The majority of buildings are brightly painted wooden homes, scattered like Monopoly houses across the tree-lined, hilly landscape, while the offices, shops and industries sit watching over the sparkling fjord – a testimony to the importance of the sea for a community built on fishing, shipping and offshore energy.
NAVTOR, which opened its doors in 2011 with around 10 staff (numbers have now surpassed 170), was drawn by that connection, with Svanes – previously the head of C-MAP Norway – seeing it as an ideal alternative to the busy regional shipping and offshore centres of Stavanger and Bergen.
“It’s far enough away to have an identity of its own, but close enough for business links, while also sitting about an hour from Stavanger airport,” Svanes says. “At the same time, it offers the sense that you can ‘get away from it all’ with beautiful coastline, beaches, skiing and walking on your doorstep.
“In terms of the all-important work/life balance, Egersund is a recipe for success.”
But an eminently liveable, picture postcard location does not guarantee business success. Far from it. Rather it’s the calibre of people NAVTOR has succeeded in attracting that has secured its growth. In total, some 16 nationalities are present in NAVTOR’s HQ, with talented software developers, data scientists, project managers, business development and sales executives, support/service staff, and a diverse array of maritime minds collaborating to serve customers in over 60 countries worldwide.
“We need the best people, and obviously feel we already have one of the best locations, but we’ve also been careful to build a culture that creates the best possible working environment,” notes Chief Operational Officer Børge Hetland.
“One based on inclusion and belonging, but also defined by purpose – whereby our innovations help to serve shipping, improving safety, efficiency, compliance and greatly simplifying tasks, while also protecting the environment. Our people know they can make a difference in an industry sailing towards greater sustainability, and that creates major appeal in terms of recruiting, developing and retaining talent.
“This is a job with meaning, where you can see the impact of your work throughout a dynamic global industry.”
Smart steps forward
NAVTOR’s rapid development to date has been built on its ability to deliver a connected, secure and integrated digital ecosystem – one that works to tackle the challenges customers (both bridge officers and shipping companies) face in a fast moving, increasingly complex world.
The team’s smart e-Navigation solutions automate tasks, reduce human error, ensure compliance and put navigators in complete control, while fleet management and performance products deliver powerful benefits, continually driving OPEX and environmental advantages for both business and society.
Recent innovations include: the industry’s leading point-to-point auto-routeing solution, creating detailed route suggestions in a matter of seconds; digital logbooks, reducing vessel administration and unlocking big data value; and NavFleet, giving owners real-time vessel insights and driving enhanced business decision making.
“I think people from outside the industry, particularly developers, are genuinely surprised when they come here and discover what we’re doing – that we’re leading the world, with our own software and cutting-edge innovations, from a place they may have never even heard of!,” remarks Leif Skjørestad, Software Development Manager at NAVTOR.
He continues: “We have a thriving community of digital experts, ranging from front- and back-end developers, to UX and QA specialists, data scientists and analysts, and AI, cloud computing and machine learning innovators. Our digital DNA is second to none, and we’re always looking to build on that with new recruits.
“When that’s combined with the company’s in-depth understanding of maritime - our true appreciation of industry pain-points - we can work to deliver unique solutions that solve key customer challenges. The result is a continually evolving portfolio with the ability to transform everyday operations, both at sea and for on shore teams.”
Skjørestad says, with a glance out the window to gather his thoughts, that NAVTOR can offer “something very special” to ambitious individuals with the ability to think outside the box.
And, of course, that ‘something very special’ extends above and beyond the rolling, rocky hills, welcoming streets and crystal-clear waters of Egersund. NAVTOR, to some extent, promises a community within a community.
Hetland notes that the firm is diverse in age as well as nationality (“we welcome all ages!”) but united in a culture rooted in respect, friendliness and the mutual desire to support one another.
“No one can succeed, in life or professionally, in isolation,” he comments. “That’s especially true when it comes to creating solutions that can help a whole industry navigate future challenges, and seize upcoming opportunity. So, close cooperation is always vital. With our customers, to meet their needs, and internally, so we can leverage the individual talent we have into a collective force of positive change.
“This is such an exciting industry to be involved in, and it’s fantastic to be leading the way forward… from Egersund!”
Svanes concludes that the company does have another nine global offices, and remote working possibilities, to serve local markets and attract local talent. But he says, with a returning smile, that he himself has “no plans to relocate” any time soon.
“However, anyone reading this that does should get in touch,” he adds. “I know at least 170 people that could recommend a move here!”