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Down-to-earth maritime spokeswoman

"When I was young, I wanted to go to sea and I was fairly frustrated with the regulations that required girls to be 18 before they could go to sea," says the long-standing assistant director in the Norwegian Maritime Directorate, recently employed by the Norwegian Shipowners' Association (NR) and a new member of the Safety Forum, Kjersti Høgestøl.

By Angela Ebbesen

Public administration lived up to expectations

Kjersti Høgestøl"I wanted to go to sea when I was young, but I was not too happy about the regulations; girls had to be 18 years old, while boys could be just 16." Instead, Kjersti Høgestøl (photo) became a graduate engineer in marine technology, earning her degree from NTNU (the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim) in 1985. Her original plan was to go to Stavanger to work in the oil industry, but a temporary post in the Norwegian Maritime Directorate (NMD) turned into a stay of 20 years.

"I did my final thesis on winterization of platforms for the Norwegian Maritime Directorate, and thereby actually helped prepare the basis for future regulatory requirements."

"Working in public administration might sound boring, but I found it very exciting. There were plenty of issues to deal with –and 'Kjersti, can't you write something about watertight sliding doors?' was a typical job that could end up in my lap."

"In time, I became both a maker and an interpreter of regulations, and a bit of a guru. Rødboka 2003 – I practically know it by heart," says Kjersti Høgestøl, referring to the NMD's compilation of statutes and regulations for mobile facilities.

Agency out of Oslo
The fact that, after 20 years with the NMD, she declined to make the move with the agency to Haugesund, did not stop her from contributing to the reorganisation process.

"But we had to let this sink in a bit in order to make it work. At the same time, we all agreed that we didn't want to leave a bad impression of the employees. We did not want to spoil the process –even though we were dead-set against the decision!
Then came two years in Veritas and work on offshore classification, rules and follow-up of existing facilities.

"Suddenly a job came up in NR – right before I was scheduled to travel offshore for an inspection; I had to think about it – and I decided that I wanted to go for it."

And you got it?

"Of course," she replies, with a laugh.

AoC – compliance and coordinated action
Kjersti first became acquainted with PSA director and chair of the Safety Forum, Magne Ognedal, during the process of developing the AoC (Acknowledgement of Compliance for mobile facilities).

"Introduction of the AoC did not just mean that the PSA started to hand out "diplomas", but also that the NMD had to change its regulations; the so-called ”Grandfather Clause” was removed. Therefore, each time a certificate falls due for renewal (i.e. every fifth year), all rig owners must evaluate their facility in relation to the regulatory requirements that apply at the time of renewal."

1+1+1 should be more than three
As a relative newcomer to the Safety Forum, Høgestøl also has some reflections about this arena.

"The Safety Forum is not just an arena for the three parties. Many perspectives are addressed here; both land and offshore, oil/gas and maritime aspects. I don't have the whole picture yet, there are a lot of issues here for a newcomer to the forum."

"It is interesting that the work situations at sea and on land are put in the same HSE perspective. At the same time, this must not mean that we have to adjust our requirements downward to conform to other standards and experiences in those areas where we have managed to lift ourselves up. On the other hand, we should not disregard the fact that we could learn something from the land aspect. Understanding each other's perspectives and realities is crucial and necessary for further progress."

A strong maritime cluster
There probably won't be much offshore work for Kjersti Høgestøl in the near future; she already has too many irons in the fire in her new job in the Shipowners' Association for that. When asked what it is like to move from public administration to the NR, she replies that it is precisely this cooperation between the NMD, DNV, NR, the seamen's organizations and the rest of the industry in IMO (the International Maritime Organization), that has contributed to results.

"We have always had a strong maritime cluster in IMO. There is a common determination to bring about HSE improvements. There is also intense work on recruiting to the fleet, and ensuring that the recruits are good."

"All of this is about safety. If the job in the NR had been a "no-no-no job", then it would not have been interesting," she confirms.

A complex dialect reflects a rich life
Kjersti was born in Mo i Rana, the only girl in a family with two older and two younger brothers. She has a pronounced burr to her speech which, according to her, comes from the influence of a caring grandmother from Sveio who visited one winter when the family lived at Innset in Bardu. Her speech is also characterised by her formative years spent with the family following her father to various NVE (Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate) plants around the country.

The family spent time in Nordland, Troms and later on ten years in Åndalsnes where her father was construction manager for the Grytten plants. Kjersti remembers the fight against development of the Eikesdal/Grytten plants in 1970 and the so-called Mardøla campaign.

"We all had some telephone phobia then, we weren't used to journalists calling up all the time! Later on I moved to Sand in Ryfylke, then studies in Trondheim and many years in Oslo. So my dialect just ended up like this!

Refinement in dialogue and debate
The versatile dialect fits well with Kjersti's personality. A large portion of self-irony is evident when she is asked to give a quick description of herself:

"I was born in 61, have a Norwegian passport and am a fan of many different soccer teams. I like all kinds of landscapes, but am happiest where mountains meet the sea. That is why I live in Oslo!

This is typical of Kjersti, who never intended to find herself an engineer, but indeed met another engineer and decided to settle down with three children in Oslo – where she was only going to stay for a year!

She likes to be a sparring partner in discussions, and she believes in dialogue and openness.

"I think that you find better solutions if you discuss things – generally speaking. In any event, I am enthusiastic and I think enthusiasm helps create results – and that could be particularly important when we work on HSE," concludes Kjersti.