A celebration to innovation and determination

23 March 2016

This year Höegh Autoliners celebrates 30 years since the establishment of our office in Japan, a celebration to innovation and determination through three decades. No market has been as important to the car carrier business as Japan.

Our history as a car carrier in Japan goes back even further, but in the first 15 years we were represented by an agent, Aall & Company, also a company with Norwegian roots. It was in Japan, through Höegh’s contract with Nissan, that the cooperation with Ugland started and became the joint venture HUAL, which today is Höegh Autoliners. And it was for the Japanese car export that the first Pure Car Carriers (PCCs), the predecessors of the vessels we run today, were first developed.

Japan in the 1970’s was the market where ‘it all began’ for the car carrier industry, with an increased demand from Japanese automakers for safe and efficient sea transportation of large volumes of cars.  

The small car revolution

The market for car transportation saw a remarkable development in the 1970’s. Rising oil prices led to a new interest in small cars, stimulating the Japanese car industry to almost triple its exports over the decade.

“Already in 1969 Höegh signed a contract with Nissan for transporting cars from Japan to Europe and this spurred the start of a Pure Car Carrier fleet. Nissan demanded specialized Ro/Ro tonnage for their transportation and we converted two tankers in to PCCs, the first one named Höegh Trader.”

This was the start of a decade long bullish market for the deep sea car carrier industry.

Rise of the Pure Car and Truck Carriers

Between 1975 and 1981 the capacity of the world’s car-carrying fleet almost doubled as a result of the growing Japanese car export. Then, suddenly, the world was hit by a financial crisis and Japanese automakers established new car factories closer to their sales markets. This reduced the need for deep sea car transportation and the industry saw cargo volumes drop with almost 30% on the East Asia trade.

“Such a dramatic drop in car volumes had to be mitigated for and Höegh signed contracts with several High and Heavy exporters in Japan.”

Once again, a new era started, driven by the Japanese market. To carry high and heavy cargo, the vessels must be more flexible than the traditional PCCs with their low cargo decks, designed to fit in as many cars as possible. This was the start of the Pure Car and Truck Carriers (PCTCs), with flexible decks, enabling a more diversified cargo mix to be loaded.

 Hual Tracer was the name of one of the first PCTCs in Höegh’s fleet and the historic vessel name is now in use on our latest new building, Höegh Tracer. For the second time the name is chosen for vessel of a revolutionary new design in the Company’s fleet.

Innovation and Determination

When celebrating 30 years in Japan, we not only celebrate Höegh’s presence in the country but the company’s will to pioneer new technology and determination to bring the industry forward. We were there when it happened in Japan and today we are investing with the same determination in new markets.

Recently Höegh celebrated that the Company has been established with our own offices in Mexico for one year. Mexico is the new automotive powerhouse and building on our history we will continue to invest and develop in to new markets now and in the future.