Espen Stubberud: From trainee to executive management

5 November 2021

Espen Stubberud joined Höegh Autoliners as a Maritime Trainee in 2007. Ten years later, Espen took a position on the Executive Management Team. He tells us what it’s like to work for a dynamic company like Höegh Autoliners and gives his top tips for newcomers to the shipping industry.   

When Chief Trade and Capacity Officer Espen Stubberud first walked into Höegh Autoliners, he was a fresh-faced Maritime Trainee. Espen wanted a varied career in an international company – and knew almost immediately that Höegh Autoliners was the perfect place.

Espen says,

Höegh Autoliners is ideal for anyone who wants a fast-paced international career. The company is very good at exposing young people to various tasks and challenges. It gives them the skills and backing they need and empowers them to do the job. I’ve been challenged many times in my career. It’s something I really value about working here.

The whole world is relevant to your day

At Höegh Autoliners, a key part of the 18-month Maritime Trainee Program is job rotation, giving trainees exposure to different functions within the company. For Espen, this meant stints in New York and Dubai, as well as projects in various departments. According to Espen, the global appeal of shipping is something that never dulls.

When you work here, the whole world is relevant to you, every single day. Our ships operate worldwide and we’re affected by world events, from the closure of the Suez Canal, political tension in the Middle East and congestion in Chinese ports related to Corona. There’s always something new. You talk to customers, suppliers and colleagues around the world every day. It’s never boring.

The chance to make a real difference

Just four years after finishing as a Maritime Trainee, Espen was given the opportunity to move with his young family to Hong Kong to become Managing Director for a new shipping company – a Joint Venture set-up by Höegh Autoliners and a Chinese partner. 

The role was very challenging, but I was grateful for the opportunity and support the company gave me.  This is one of the great things about Höegh. We’re international, but we’re still small, bold and agile. You get the best of both worlds. You work in a global company, but you are part of a small team where you can really make a difference.

Now part of the Executive Management Team, Espen is responsible for taking decisions that affect the direction of the whole company. But his best career choice remains joining Höegh Autoliners 14 years ago. 

“I feel very privileged to work here,” he says. “I’ve been given very interesting opportunities, especially abroad. I’ve been very well looked after and so has my family. I’m very thankful for that.”

Espen Stubberud’s top tips for newcomers to the shipping industry

Be curious 
Try to get exposure to different departments and functions. The shipping industry is very interconnected. You can make better decisions if you understand all the different influences and drivers.

Take on every challenge 
Focus on doing a good job in the position you’re in. Take on challenges and proactively engage in projects. Don’t be afraid to take on “unpopular” tasks – they can turn out to be very interesting and you will always learn something.

Assume you can make a difference
The shipping industry is facing an urgent new challenge: to reduce emissions. No-one in the industry has faced this challenge before, and the new generation of employees will drive the change. It’s not just a technical challenge. It’s a full industry effort and requires people with different skills. So stay curious, stay motivated – and know that you can make a difference to the industry.  


Want to become a Maritime Trainee? 
Organised by the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association, Maritime Trainee is one of the leading management trainee programs in Norway. The program lasts for 18 months and combines working in a world leading maritime company with academic training in Norway, Singapore and London. It’s an outstanding way to start a career in this global industry. Höegh Autoliners has taken part in the program since it started in 2005.

Find out more about the Maritime Trainee Program