How I work: Birgit Liodden

It is one of the biggest events in the shipping industry’s calendar, drawing thousands of people to the vibrant city of Oslo, every two years.

So, it is little wonder that the Director of Nor-Shipping, Birgit Liodden is both “excited and scared” about being fully in charge of the 2017 event for the first time.

“Last time we still had our former Director onboard, so his team held the reins on that event. It’s exciting and scary at the same time!” she said. “It has been a really exciting journey taking over in a period where the industry is going through a lot of changes.”

Coming up with a fresh format to keep the punters happy is also a constant challenge for the Nor-Shipping team but it is one that Ms Liodden embraces.

“Nor-Shipping has always been at the forefront of change, introducing new concepts and really being a leading shipping event week that others have taken inspiration from,” she said.

“The fundament of Nor-Shipping is to re-invent ourselves every time. Of course, for this coming Nor-Shipping, we have ‘Catalyst for Change’ as our theme and we are addressing various angles on how industry transformation across other industries affect us – how the digital ships affects us and, of course, how we can actually utilise new opportunities in the changing landscape.”

The transformation of the shipping event over the years has in some way mirrored a similar exciting journey for Ms Liodden.

She admits that even though she grew up in Norway, originally she knew very little about the shipping industry.

However this all changed when, having been a self-confessed “school drop-out”, she set sail on her maritime career in 2006, working with the Wilhelmsen Group where she worked in a crossover area of HR and IT.

“I’ve worked a lot but I love to work. I actually ended up, quite coincidentally, in the shipping industry and I have loved it ever since,” she said. “It’s a lifestyle.”

She has also championed the up and coming maritime talent in Norway being very active in YoungShip and founder of YoungShip International, and as part of the cooperation between YoungShip and Nor-Shipping, they set up the Young Entrepreneur Award, which was handed out for the first time in 2013.

Ms Liodden was recruited by Nor-Shipping in autumn 2014 when she was just starting maternity leave with her second child and has not looked back since revelling in her role and bringing new ideas to the popular trade fair.

This year, for the first time, there will be a Disruptive Sustainability Hall where the maritime industry meets the tech industry and this will provide a physical platform for enabling the exchange of knowledge and the building of new connections.

“What we have tried for in Nor-Shipping this time around is to really bring the tech industry into the shipping industry and actually to have more outsiders taking the scene,” she explained.

She said there was also a focus on getting other industries onboard and in some cases following the lead set by others, for example looking to the aviation industry and its use of autonomous aircraft and how that could be adapted to autonomous ships.

Another area Ms Liodden is very passionate about is attracting more young talent into the maritime industry and, working with Nor-Shipping on a consultancy basis in 2011, she took part in organising the Ocean Talent Camp initiative, which aims to engage high school students.

“All over the world I talk to people who say the same thing – that shipping as an industry is not necessarily the first choice for young people. I think this is because it is not very visible and it is a ‘grey’ industry,” she said.

“That’s a challenge for the industry to change and I think it’s very important for any one of us, regardless of country and which part of the industry we are in, to recruit people with a diverse background because industries are changing now too and we will need to utilise people with quite a broad span of expertise and competence.”

She added: “With change coming in now, I think a challenge and an opportunity for company leaders is to actually understand and acknowledge that our senior leaders also need to learn from the younger generation because they have skills on a different level that we need to merge.”

Collaboration is also a really big part of Ms Liodden’s worth ethic.

“I really believe in the fact that we can all create a lot of good things one by one but we can really create magic when we manage to build good collaborations,” she said.

When she is not busy planning Nor-Shipping – run by the not for profit organisation Norwegian Trade Fairs – Ms Liodden likes spending time with her family.

“I also enjoy travel and, having very small kids, I do enjoy doing nothing or just having a long cup of coffee and reading the paper!” she said.