Erik wants all hands on deck

Cooperation at all levels is the key to success, according to Erik Nøklebye, new CEO of Wallenius Lines. After 25 years in the business – all at Wallenius Wilhelmsen – Erik knows what he’s talking about. And he’s 100 % confident that the future of shipping, although challenging, is bright. 


Wallenius Lines made a change at the helm by appointing Erik Nøklebye as its new CEO last October. Erik is far from new to Soya Group, though. In fact, he has worked his entire career at the partner-owned companies of Wallenius Wilhelmsen. 

“What I’ve learned is that how you are as a person, and the way you work together with others – how others perceive you and your company – is crucial to whether you succeed or not. You have to be the best partner you can be and understand that success is built by the whole team, not just by one individual,” says Erik. 


It was during Erik’s university studies in Logistics in Oslo (he’s Norwegian born, despite a colleague dubbing him “the most Swedish Norwegian ever”) that he first got in touch with Wilhelmsen Lines in 1997 and came onboard. Since then, Erik has worked in the shipping and PCTC segment, in different parts of the Wallenius Wilhelmsen structure since its foundation, as well as at RoRo shipping company EUKOR. In recent years, he’s been in charge of the Wallenius Wilhelmsen Shipping Services division, based in South Korea. 

“I learned a lot about teamwork during my twelve years in Asia. Asians are team driven, there’s no prestige or micromanagement, rather ‘all hands on deck,’ with the customer in focus. Who does what isn’t important – teamwork is,” says Erik. 


This is also the mindset he’d like to reinforce in his new CEO role. Since his family moved back from Korea not only has his job title changed, but his priorities have, too. After many years of hard work and travel, he has decided to spend more time with his family, making his children his priority in the years to come. 

It’s a decision that in no way affects his passionate motivation for his new role: 

“It feels great to join a company I’ve known for a long time, working for an owner I know well. Early on in my career I worked as a board secretary of Wallenius Wilhelmsen when Jonas Kleberg was on the Board at the same time. And after being operational it’s exciting to be on the owner’s side of things,” Erik says. 


His favourite theme is cooperation at all levels – between teams, functions, and companies. 

“For me, it’s always been key, in all contexts, to work horizontally, since things develop through cross-functional collaborations. I believe that everybody wants to feel they’re part of something bigger, and I want everyone who works here to understand why we’re here: It’s less about how much money we make, and more about being a great partner and cooperating to solve sustainability issues to make the world a better place,” says Erik. 


He is proud of Wallenius’ and Soya Group’s amazing history of innovation. 

“We’re extremely gifted at coming up with great ideas and pursuing them until they flourish, even if it is a long-term investment. And we can continue that journey by getting even better at innovating through increased interaction and cooperation between functions and companies.” 

He admits though, that cooperation can have its challenges. 

“The most important thing to me is the relationship with our co-owning partners. We have to discuss and come to an agreement in all matters, strategic and tactical, and that can be both challenging and difficult. But we’re a learning organisation and when we’re challenged, we get new perspectives. I want to create a common sense of direction and a strong sense of belonging within the entire company. We must work together in shipping!” he says. 


The future of shipping is bright, according to Erik, and the cash flow allows for future, much needed, investment to enable a successful green transition. 

“Changing people’s mindsets takes time and new innovative solutions are needed. I want us to step up our game and lift our brand to influence external stakeholders and decision makers locally as well as globally. Soya Group should be a driving force in sustainability issues. We have a long, but exciting, journey ahead of us,” says Erik. 

That Wallenius Lines is investing in owning ships again is a natural progression, according to Erik. 

“We need to be involved in everything to achieve the best ship management. It’s about keeping the competence within the company for Wallenius Lines to flourish. In the beginning of March, we signed a new used ship for UECC, and we will continue to make those kinds of investments,” he concludes. 


I want to be a leader with less focus on my exact area of responsibility, and more on how we can work together and create great things. 



Work: New CEO of Wallenius Lines 

Live: Stockholm 

Family: Wife, two kids, 13 and 16 years old, and a dog.