Enduring innovation

Brødrene Aa is a ship construction yard situated in the coastal village of Hyen, in the west Norwegian municipality of Gloppen. The company, whose name translates into English as ‘Brothers Aa’, was founded in 1947 by two brothers: Olav and Bertal Aa. Together, through focusing on high quality and innovative materials, the pair expanded the yard’s operations into a widely reputed business. Originally building wooden boats, changing to FRP sandwich boats in 1974, this pursuit of best possible materials sees Brødrene Aa today using carbon fibre as the bedrock of its vessel construction.

The core of Brødrene Aa’s business is the design and production of high speed ferries that are used by operators throughout Norway, though its main customers during the last ten years include: L Rødne & Sønner AS, which operates between Rogaland and Hordaland; sea and road public transport operator Tide ASA; and Fjordservice A/S, which was acquired by and merged into Tide ASA during 2008. Its ferry designs are primarily catamarans and monohulls. The company also continues a small line of alternative products including hydromill blades, train fuselages and armour for subsea drilling structures.

In July 2010 the yard announced the completion of its largest vessel to date, MS Sognekongen, constructed for Norwegian operator Fjord 1 Fylkesbaatane. Ordered in December 2008, it is a 37.5 metre long carbon sandwich catamaran now operating in the fjords of western Norway as a tourist sightseeing vessel. Is it the 258th vessel built by the yard and an excellent example of its cutting edge design: the low weight carbon sandwich hull means significantly reduced polluting emissions – 37 per cent lower carbon dioxide and 65 per cent lower nitrogen oxide compared to many of today’s high speed catamarans.

Carbon fibre, like fibreglass, uses ultra-thin strands of material – in this case 0.005 to 0.010 millimetres – twisted into yarn that can then be woven into fabric. It has several advantages over fibreglass, however, because when integrated into boat building polymers, it provides four times greater rigidity and two to three times as much tensile strength. As MS Sognekongen highlights, carbon fibre is also a lot lighter than fibreglass or aluminium and in many cases it results in up to 40 per cent lighter structures. This means that although capital expenditure is greater for a carbon fibre vessel, the reduction in fuel use and maintenance requirements provides greater longterm savings.

Brødrene Aa’s use of this material stretches back more than ten years when it began work on the Rygerdoktoren, a high performance ambulance boat designed for safety and durability throughout all weathers. It’s role demanded fast speeds so Brødrene Aa invested in vacuum-infusion carbon fibre moulding to meet operator L Rødne & Sonner’s expectations. It was completed and launched in 2002 and the yard has continued using carbon fibre as its primary hull material ever since, even going on to win a JEC Innovation Award in 2005 for using what is normally an aviation material in marine vessels.

Brødrene Aa’s expertise extends beyond hulls, however, as it strives to source technical systems renowned for performance and reliability. For its Styrsobolaget ferry construction the MS Valö, for example, Brødrene Aa used MAN diesel engines, Servogear controllable pitch propellers and gearboxes, Undertun Industri marine evacuation system (MES) and Adveto ECDIS-4000 electronic information systems to deliver a vessel as outstanding on the inside as it is on the outside.

Good as its materials and products are, however, Brødrene Aa would ultimately be nothing without the expertise and commitment of its staff. Its 100-strong team of engineers, designers, electricians, plumbers, mechanics and material technicians take personal interest in the challenges and solutions of the boat building industry. When facing a problem during a project, all persons involved are therefore able to work towards a common solution that satisfies all parties involved. As illustrated by the Rygerdoktoren project, this even extends to product innovation. Rather than possessing a specific research and development team, this activity is staple in the fabric of the company with everybody contributing to potential future directions for the Brødrene Aa.

Branching into subsea armour is one example of this. Since 1993, it has used its knowledge of maritime construction to build coverings for seabed drilling structures, protecting them from fishing tackle or other marine threats. This has become a key minority business, with one particularly important project seeing the delivery of more than 2000 tonnes of armour to the Troll oil and gas field in the North Sea. Since 1996 Brødrene Aa has also manufactured more than 76 train fuselages and ploughs, whilst more recently it has co-operated with Hammerfest Strøm to produce blades for the subsea windmills on its tidal energy project, The Blue Concept.

At the moment, Brødrene Aa is producing a 40-metre carbon catamaran able to carry 350 passengers for a Croatian client called Luca Tomic. It will be the largest civilian carbon fibre vessel ever made, and has been classified by Det Norse Veritas (DNV) and the Croation Register. This cat will be the 29th carbon fibre vessel delivered by Brødrene Aa since it began the line in 2001, and the company is looking forward to delivering this environmentally friendly and fuel-economic vessel to its destination in the Adriatic Sea.

With these projects lined up alongside Brødrene Aa’s core vessel construction business, the company’s prospects are vast. Its ideal geographic position, dedicated team, reputable history and close links with some of the country’s most important ferry operators are certain to see Brødrene Aa continue cementing itself as one of Norway’s leading shipyards for high speed ferries.

One of Norway’s most popular shipyards
Strong reputation for innovation
More than 60 years experience as a family-owned business