National Centres for Restoration of Historic Vessels
The National Centres for Restoration of Historic Vessels undertake significant work to preserve the skills related to the construction and repair of historic ships, an important element of Norway’s rich maritime heritage. The Norwegian Association for the Safeguarding of Vessels (“Norsk Forening for Fartøyvern”), an NGO representing owners of traditional vessels, has collaborated closely with the Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage (“Riksantikvaren”) to develop a plan to safeguard knowledge in these areas.
During the 1960s and 1970s, a growing interest in the preservation of historic vessels coincided with significant changes in fishing activities, sea transport and the use of traditional vessels. Many vessels disappeared from ports and the decommissioning of fishing boats was widespread. The skills related to repairing boats were gradually fading away, however, the desire to preserve a representative selection of vessels was growing.
Three vessel restoration centres were established: Bredalsholmen Dokk og fartøyvernsenter in Southern Norway practices traditional craftmanship in the restoration-process of iron and steel vessels and steam boilers, such as riveting and other techniques; Hardanger fartøyvernsenter in Western Norway restores wooden vessels and has expertise in rope making, rigging, blacksmithing, and clinker-built boats and; Nordnorsk Fartøyvernsenter in Northern Norway restores vessels built of wooden boats and Sami vessels and has extensive knowledge of engines and older electronic devices.
The objective of the three centres was to restore a representative selection of vessels. Additionally, the centres offer advisory services to owners of historic ships and engage in documentation and research. As traditional seamanship and associated knowledge of vessels and materials were being lost, the training of craftspeople in traditional crafts and the establishment of apprenticeship schemes became crucial. The restoration projects served as valuable learning platforms to pass on traditional maritime craftsmanship to new generations.
The establishment of the three centres, supported by national and regional grants for their buildings, has yielded significant benefits for local communities and the entire country. Consequently, there has been substantial international interest, attracting craftspeople from across Europe and the world who have been employed for varying durations over the years. The centres hold a unique position within the European context, combining government initiatives, volunteer efforts, private and corporate funding, and long-term public support for a well-defined fleet of more than 270 historic vessels. Owners of historic vessels receive grants and can choose restoration yards with professional expertise.
“Norway’s National Centres for Restoration of Historic Vessels not only safeguard cultural heritage but also generate economic value for the communities in which they are located. The professionalism of this initiative is clearly evident, as the work produced is high quality, and the organisation maintains a well-documented approach and enjoys strong national support from the Norwegian government. The long-term impact of the three centres is commendable, and is supported by convincing data that demonstrates the tangible outcomes of their work. This initiative stands out for its comprehensive approach, creating a wholesome experience that sets an impressive example for other European countries facing similar challenges in preserving their maritime heritage”, the Awards’ Jury commended.