February -12-The Wilh Wilhelmsen (WW) maritime group achieved an operating income of USD3.4 billion in 2008, up by more than 25ompared with 2007's USD2.7 billion.

High and heavy shipments, currently a niche operation for the mainly finished automobile-carrying ro-ro line, are set to gain importance this year as the traditional manufactured car traffic looks set to plummet.

Net operating profit came to USD351.6 million, compared with USD265.7 million. Operating income for the fourth quarter amounted to USD853.4 million, up from USD740.1 million for the same period in 2007.

Operating profit came to USD134.0 million, compared with USD58.9 million.Ingar Skaug, group chief executive of WW, said: "We expect a decline in car volumes for 2009, and although the short term outlook for high and heavy and project cargoes are somewhat down, we deem the underlying demand to be more stable."