Höegh Autoliners – Revolutionising the Maritime Industry

Höegh Autoliners has always been an innovator, and now the industry faces a time when that is needed more than ever.

Höegh Autoliners has always been a pioneer. The company has been a constant in the shipping industry for almost 100 years. Always innovating and always adapting. Höegh Autoliners was the company that combined oil and iron ore transportation in the early 60s and developed the first specialised LNG carriers in the 70s. But the company’s biggest breakthrough came in its development of specialised car carriers.

It was Leif Høegh, Höegh Autoliners’ Chair, and a descendant and namesake of the company’s founder whose great uncle designed the first dedicated car carrier in 1966, to transport the Ford Anglia. It was an innovation that would inspire the firm’s future during a period of massive industry consolidation.

“By the late 70s, only six or seven operators were using special-purpose vessels. We had our position in that industry cemented by the late 70s,” says Leif Høegh. “We have continued our tradition of innovation. In the mid-1980s we were the first to build what is now the standard 6,500-unit ship that has now been copied by most operators. The company has always aligned its service innovation with those of our customers and we continue to do that today.”

It is a legacy that the company continues to honour today, when once more Höegh Autoliners looks set to transform the industry.

“We have worked for a decade developing our environmental and social sustainability profile,” says Andreas Enger, Höegh Autoliners’ CEO. “We have taken delivery of the largest and most efficient car carriers in the world, and as the only player in the industry, we have firm orders for a series of new and even larger and more environmentally friendly vessels with a clear path to zero emissions.”

Höegh Autoliners has taken decisive steps before and is taking new important steps to improve its performance on sustainability.

Mr Enger adds, “With a focus on reducing our environmental footprint and continuously assessing our customers’ transportation and logistics requirements, we developed our latest innovation, the Horizon class. These vessels are the world’s largest and most fuel-efficient Pure Car and Truck Carrier (PCTC) vessels. Delivered in 2015, the vessels can transport up to 8500 cars and ship cargo up to 375 Metric Tonnes and are still considered the largest and most efficient PCTC vessels today, emitting 40% less CO2 per car transported compared to a standard car carrier.

“The benefit of the Horizon class is that they are larger ships with smaller engines which reduces the emission footprint significantly, by being more efficient during transport. To meet our ambitious goal of a net-zero by 2040 and support our customers in decarbonising their supply chain we have taken the Horizon class a significant step further in designing the Aurora class, a multi-fuel and zero-carbon ready vessel,” Andreas Enger says.

These are the first vessels in the PCTC segment to have both DNV’s “ammonia ready” and “methanol ready” notations. The vessels will also be the first in the segment to be able to operate on carbon-neutral ammonia. According to Andreas Enger, The Aurora class will be able to transport up to 9100 cars, and by increasing the size, modernising propulsion, and significantly reducing emissions, the vessels will revolutionise the maritime industry.

The Aurora class is designed for future cargo. Its strengthened decks and enhanced internal ramp systems allow Electric Vehicles on all decks and provide more flexibility for heavier project cargo.

Andreas Enger adds, “With the Horizon class and now the Aurora class we are not only helping to combat climate change but also supporting our customers in decarbonising their supply chain. And once again proving that Höegh Autoliners is an innovator, leading the way towards a net-zero emissions future for our industry.”

Between 2008 and 2020 the firm has reduced its carbon footprint by 37% across its fleet.

Sustained Effort

Sustainability is clearly a huge part of Höegh Autoliners’ vision for the future. The company not only focuses on carbon footprints and emissions data but takes a broader approach to its sustainability efforts.

“Sustainability is so often tagged as only about carbon and environmental impact, but for us, it is a lot more,” Enger tells us. “It is about our people, creating a safe and inclusive place to work all over the world. Having experienced, loyal, and dedicated people has been instrumental during the Covid pandemic. It has been their hard work and dedication that has enabled us to serve our customers and maintain our ocean services. I am very proud of the way our people both on land and at sea has dealt with the challenges of the pandemic.”

Höegh Autoliners not only takes care of its people but offers an environment that encourages innovation.

“We give our people room to try out new things, and have an inclusive culture,” Enger says. “We work across cultures with our largest office in the Philippines and other locations around Asia, South Africa, North America, and Europe. We have that diversity in culture and people.”

“We invest in our people. With many of them working on ships we offer a more structured environment for training and advancement,” Høegh adds. “We were early in adopting our own internal training course for our seafarers which allows them opportunities to grow. We do not focus on gender but rather ability and have more and more female seafarers joining us and rising through the ranks. Although it is a small representation in the industry as a whole, we are creating a career path and a better balance. “

Höegh Autoliners invests in its people and sees this as a long-term investment.

“Both our vessels and our people stay with us for a long time. Ships last for 30 years. Our cadets join us when they are 18 and move up and become master mariners and the chief engineer or captain of a ship,” Høegh tells us. “Careers of 30 years or more are not unusual in Höegh Autoliners. It is a gratifying experience to see that development as they become senior officers in our company.”

Sea Change

Of course, the industry Höegh Autoliners is a part of is undergoing some fairly radical changes at the moment, with raw material shortages and supply chain issues combining with the energy transition to create a volatile environment.

“There has been a tight container market, making container space more difficult to come by and costs have gone up significantly. Sometimes this forces cargo out of containers, and we provide attractive alternatives for some types of cargo outside of containers,” Leif Høegh says. “Exports out of China almost doubled, largely electric vehicles, cars, buses, and commercial vehicles. A lot of that volume came our way, and it has added significant demand to the market. The EV-revolution in Europe and the US has opened the window for manufacturers to come up with cars that appeal to the public in price point and quality.”

There are challenges and opportunities, but Enger believes the automotive industry is a strong partner to have in addressing those challenges.

“We have the benefit of serving the global automotive industry, large global consumer brands that are at the forefront of sustainability and technology,” he tells us. “We are proud to partner with them and see ourselves taking a strong role through innovation, providing more sustainable solutions. The Aurora class represents the future of our business and the industry. It will further strengthen our service offering, accelerate our path to zero and put us at the forefront of sustainable shipping.”

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