Nor-Shipping has been postponed due to concerns over the rapidly expanding Omicron coronavirus variant, TradeWinds has learned.

The marquee biennial Norwegian exhibition and conference had been scheduled for 10-13 January next year. It had already been delayed from June last year because of the pandemic.

Like many countries, Norway has been experiencing a spike in Covid-19 cases, with 3,622 new infections recorded on Sunday. The government brought in measures aimed at reducing the impact of the Omicron variant, including more stringent social distancing.

Postponement confirmed

Nor-Shipping later confirmed the postponement was made in the face of increasing coronavirus infection rates, driven by Omicron.

"In a very fluid pandemic situation, with rapidly rising infection rates here in Norway and elsewhere, we believe the time has come to postpone our January programme and try and create some clarity for our exhibitors and participants," Nor-Shipping director Sidsel Norvik said.

The management team is working with stakeholders to decide on the best way forward. An announcement on the timing of the next Nor-Shipping is expected this week.

Norvik said the time had come to make "a responsible decision", even though current national restrictions allow for large-scale exhibitions.

The coming days will be spent carefully assessing the situation.

"Our job is to serve and support this great business community, and we’re committed to doing so in a safe, responsible and considered manner," she added.

'Robust discussions'

TradeWinds understands that robust discussions had been held for days about how to proceed, with some pushing for postponement or cancellation, and others vowing to press ahead despite the worsening situation.

The postponement is a lose-lose situation for the conference organiser and attendees. One major exhibitor said it is likely to lose thousands in sunk costs such as printing materials and preparation of its stand.

Former Nato secretary general and former Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen; former Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg; and International Maritime Organization secretary general Kitack Lim were among those due to speak next month.

Nor-Shipping and its owner, Nova Spektrum, are in constant communication with stakeholders, from local authorities to exhibitors, partners and delegates, to keep abreast of developments and industry sentiment, the event company said.

Nor-Shipping usually gathers up to 50,000 international decision makers in Oslo and Lillestrom, with around 900 exhibitors.