For 80 years Höegh has been involved in the international shipping industry. In 1927, Leif Høegh founded the company to take advantage of the growing market for oil transportation. By the outbreak of World War II, Leif Höegh & Co (LHC) managed a fleet of 13 ships and had produced an annual increase in value-adjusted equity of 21% per share.Liner shipping was seen as counter cyclical to tankersand in order to hedge risks the company started its own liner activities with the "Java Pacific Line". From 1948, the company operated the liners of the "West Africa Service", which was ultimately sold in 1990.
The owning and operation of oil tankers was a mainstay of the company for decades. In the 1960's the company diversified. Combined ore-bulk-oil carriers (OBO) became a speciality for several decades. The car-bulk involvement was developed further into specialised forest product carriers and Roll-on/Roll-off (Ro/Ro) car carriers. A joint venture was formed with Uglandand by 1970 "Höegh-Ugland Auto Liners" (HUAL) had become a world leading Ro/Ro operator. Leif Höegh & Co acquired the other 50% of HUAL in March 2000. Renamed in 2005, Höegh Autoliners is today one of the world's largest operators in the Ro/Ro and vehicle transportation segment.
Höegh pioneered the transportation of liquefied natural gas (LNG) when contracting the world's first LNG carrier with special tanks (the Moss type), delivered to the company in 1973. The vessel is still trading on a long-term contract. Today Höegh LNG owns partly or wholly five LNG carriers, including two new vessels delivered in 2006 to be employed on the worlds northernmost LNG development - Snøhvit. The same year Höegh LNG ordered two LNG regasification vessels, a concept developed by the company, for a deepwater port to be constructed in the US.
Stock listing and consolidation
Various owning companies were stock listed since the founding of the first Höegh company "Atlantica" in 1927, and in December 1987 Leif Höegh & Co ASA was listed at the Oslo Stock Exchange after merging the various ship-owning entities. This consolidation process laid the basis for new development towards a decentralised business model. The combined carrier and tanker related activities were de-merged and stock listed as "Bona Shipholding" in 1992 as a consequence of the US Oil Pollution Act of 1990 that followed in the wake of the Exxon Valdez accident in Alaska.
Bona Shipholding developed into a major operator in the OBO and Aframax tanker segments and was subsequently sold. The acquisition of the reefer operator "Cool Carriers" in 1994 was developed into "Unicool" in 1997 through a joint venture with Safmarine. Leif Höegh & Co owned Unicool 100% from the end of 1999 until Cool Carriers AB was sold to "J. Lauritzen A/S", in effect from 2001. "Höegh Fleet Services AS" was established as a separate ship-management entity in 1995, serving Leif Höegh & Co's fleet. Ship management has long been considered a core competence and an integral part of the company's services
When Leif Höegh & Co acquired 100% of HUAL in 2000, the company's strategy had changed from diversification to focus on Ro/Ro and LNG. Consequently non-core activities where disposed of; Höegh Lines, involved in the liner business and the transportation of forest products in specialised open hatch vessels, terminated its activities in March 2001: The Liner business was sold as was the open hatch fleet,[ and the commercial open hatch operation was transferred to "Saga Forest Carriers". Two large dry bulk carriers were sold in 2005 concluding the disinvestment in non-core assets.
In 2003, Höegh Autoliners took delivery of the first new vessel in an extensive fleet expansion and renewal program. At the end of 2006 17 vessels are on order with yards in Korea, Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore and Croatia.
In 2006, Höegh LNG took delivery of two new LNG vessels and ordered two Höegh "Shuttle and Regasification" Vessels (SRV), beginning a new service for Höegh LNG.
In 2003 the third generation took control of the company. The cousins Leif O. Høegh and Morten Høegh made an offer to acquire all outstanding shares in Leif Höegh & Co AS. The offer was well received and the company was privatised and de-listed.
In 2006 the company was restructured into two separate entities- Höegh Autoliners and Höegh LNG- with a common holding company (Leif Höegh & Co Limited). Ship management expertise is handled by Höegh Fleet Services.