The superyacht industry may be small to some, but it is filled with a range of experts and professionals from around the world. In this series, we shine a light on some of the specialists working within the different segments of the industry to learn more about what they do for the sector. This week, we take a moment to speak with Jon Olav Stedje, Manager Port Operations in the Port of Flåm to learn more about Norway as an increasingly popular superyacht getaway.
You are currently Manager Port Operations at the Port of Flåm in Western Norway. Firstly, tell us about yourself and your journey into the maritime world.
I grew up in Western Norway, and as a child, I was fascinated by everything maritime - which is part and parcel of growing up surrounded by the beauty of the fjords, in small towns and cities in the mountains. After finishing my studies and serving in the Norwegian navy, I knew I wanted to be more involved with the fjords, and for a while, I was working on a ferry between Oslo and Copenhagen. It was great to explore the waters of Scandinavia as my job. I left and travelled the world for a while before, eventually, I realised I wanted to focus on the promotion of Norway as a natural, wild hotspot in the world. It’s such a fantastic country with so much to offer, and I am very passionate about getting that message out there. I moved to Flåm where I worked for one of the leading guide operators in the area, and continued to study whilst taking on the position of Manager Port Operations. I’m an adventurous person that loves to be challenged, so part of my day to life today is checking the best spots for skydiving, skiing, mountaineering, hunting and exploring - as well as managing the busy port of Flåm!Photo: Charl van Rooy / SuperYacht Times
Norway has grown in popularity as a viable charter alternative to the traditional yachting hotspots in the Med in recent years. How have you noticed this growth?
For the last few years we have definitely seen an increase of superyachts visiting our area - and at Flåm, we’re well equipped to meet the needs of visiting yachts up to 80-metres in length (alongside, with unlimited anchorage just outside the port). In fact, this summer from April– September we had around 20 yachts visit in total. We’re doing a lot to promote the area, but in general, nature-based destinations like Norway are more popular than ever. Exploring unspoiled areas and conquering nature is a more accessible feat than ever before, and that’s exciting for this country.
But it’s not hard to see why yachts are coming here when you compare them to their Mediterranean counterparts. It’s a completely different experience to being surrounded by people and yachts, soaking in the sun. Norway is pristine, but wild, with unpredictable weather and many areas of complete isolation. You could explore the fjords of our coastline for years and never get bored… although most people stay a week or two!Photo: SuperYacht Times
What kind of yachtie is a trip to Norway most suited?
Of course, the typical yacht owner or charter client is a person who lives under intense pressure when it comes to their professional lives. Usually, their career demands all of their attention and focus every second of every day. For those that are really looking for a way to escape the madness of an incredibly successful life, Norway is the next destination for you. It’s awe-inspiring, it’s peaceful and you have the opportunity to cruise in almost absolute privacy. I think a lot of people might assume that you need to be a hardcore adventurer to venture this far up north, and although adventure activities are a big part of this country, there’s also nothing more peaceful than quietly cruising the majestic fjords and just taking it all in. To be unavailable to the outside and completely unplugged is the ultimate luxury.
There’s a lot of talk about promoting Norway as a superyacht destination, but Is the infrastructure there already?
Yes, in many spots along the coast. Big cities like Ålesund, Stavanger and Bergen which can be used as a starting point for a fantastic cruise are very developed and ready to accommodate every need from a large superyacht. To be able to combine this with beautiful surroundings, excellent and discrete service, local food experience and unique excursions, gives our guests a chance to take a breather from the hectic everyday life. Norway is a country with high standards, and it’s also a safe country. That means it is stable and predictable and our visitors can spend time here without many concerns.Photo: Port of Aurland
Tell me what the Port of Flåm is doing to promote superyachting in Norway, and why?
Port of Flåm promotes it selves as a superyacht destination because we have a lot to offer to our superyacht guests. We are very proud of our product and our part of the world and want to share it. The port of Flåm is a part of the Superyacht Norway and Visit Norway organisations, so we’re actively contributing to the promotion of Norway as a superyacht destination. As a destination, we need to be more visible and available to the superyacht segment in the future. To gain experience, we need to take part in the industry. We need to draw attention and show the superyacht segment what we can deliver.
We are still young in this business, and still have a lot to learn, but I truly see a bright future for superyachts visiting us. Not only will that be great for the country but for me, personally, nothing beats seeing these amazing vessels anchored out in the fjords. It’s a sight to be seen!
SuperYacht Times - The State of Yachting 2020
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