The origins of Fred. Olsen & Co. date back to 1848 when the Fred. Olsen family first entered the ship owning business.
The repeal of the Navigation Act in 1849 created favourable times for international trade and shipping, which the three brothers, Fredrik Christian, Petter and Andreas Olsen took advantage of. They lived in Hvitsten, a village on the Oslo Fjord, and became all sea captains at an early age. The eldest brother, Fredrik Christian Olsen, who was born in 1815, became a captain in 1841. He bought his first two sailing ships, the schooners "Johanne Christine" and "Elizabeth" in 1848. He died in 1875 having owned 22 sailing ships. Petter Olsen (1821-1899) bought his first ship, the brig "Thilda" in 1852. He owned a total of 16 sailing ships and part interests in several other ships. Andreas Olsen's (1826-1893) first ship was the barque "De Tre Venner", bought in 1860 and he subsequently owned five other sailing ships. The three Olsen brothers' activities gradually became so extensive that a customs station was built in Hvitsten.
Over the years, companies related to the family have diversified into other activities, from aviation to shipbuilding, oil and gas exploration and development services, and have today wide international interests. The Fred. Olsen related interests comprise both private and publicly quoted companies. The public interests are centred around the listed Norwegian shipping company Bonheur ASA, established in the 1890s. Mr. Fred. Olsen is currently chairman of the shipping company and his daughter Anette S. Olsen is the Managing Director of same. The firm Fred. Olsen & Co., which is owned by Anette S. Olsen, provides administrative services to Bonheur.
During the first half of the last century, cargo liner services were the main business area of the Fred. Olsen & Co. related activities. Combined passenger/cargo and ferry services were also developed, but are now largely disposed. A cruise operation (Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines) remains a fully owned affiliate. The Aker Shipbuilding and offshore construction group was majority owned by Bonheur and Ganger Rolf for about 70 years until sold in the mid-1980s.