Wilhelm Wilhelmsen Dies at Eighty-Two

Wilhelm Wilhelmsen
Wilhelm Wilhelmsen

By The Maritime Executive 02-23-2020 02:52:04

Wilhelm Wilhelmsen, the fourth-generation owner of the Wilhelmsen group, died on February 22 at the age of 82.

Wilhelmsen, born June 8, 1937, was a very well-respected business leader and spokesperson for Norwegian shipping and the maritime industry at large.

The Wilhelmsen group was established by his great grandfather in Tønsberg, Norway in 1861. Although he had many positions in the company from a very young age, Wilhelmsen formally joined as partner in 1964. In 1992, he accepted the position as chair of the board. Except for a short period as group CEO, he held the top position in the company until 2010. He remained active until the day he passed away.

Wilhelmsen was instrumental in developing the Wilhelmsen group from a traditional liner company with trades all over the world to one of the largest maritime industry groups with almost 15,000 employees in more than 70 countries. His extensive network and business relationships in Norway and internationally have been essential in building the company the past almost 60 years. He also steered the group through many important and difficult situations in the company’s history, including the offshore crisis in the 1980s and the Partnair and Tampa incidents (see below).

In addition to serving on boards of many companies and having honorary posts in several Norwegian and international shipping and maritime organizations, Wilhelmsen believed in sharing some of the values his family generated. Through the Tom Wilhelmsens Stiftelse, a family foundation named after his father, he contributed to the donation of large sums back to society, including maritime and medical research, sports, culture and humanitarian organizations. For his outstanding contribution to business and society, he received The Royal Norwegian Order of Saint Olav Knight 1st Class in 2007. 

Wilhelmsen leaves his wife Ninni, three children and eight grandchildren behind.

Partnair Incident

In 1989, a chartered Partnair plane carrying company officials to a ship christening in Germany crashed in the sea killing all 55 people aboard.

Tampa Incident

In August 2001, a Wilhelmsen vessel Tampa rescued 438 Afgans from a distressed fishing vessel in international waters. The Afghans wanted passage to nearby Christmas Island, but the Australian government refused Tampa entry into Australian waters and insisted the people were disembarked elsewhere. Australia deployed a Special Air Service Regiment to board the ship. At the time of the incident, Tampa carried cargo worth A$20 million and 27 crew. The crew of Tampa received the Nansen Refugee Award from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for their efforts to follow international principles of saving people in distress at sea.