What Leadership do we need to accelerate the energy transition?

The energy transition is a priority for the entire maritime industry. While the urgency and necessity are recognized by everyone, the actual transition is often a complex and long-term process that needs good leadership to see it through.

For WISTA The Netherlands, I interviewed four leaders in the maritime sector, predominantly WISTA members, who shared their views on how we can facilitate and accelerate the energy transition movement.

Part 1: PICK YOUR BATTLES – CHOOSE YOUR PARTNERS – GET READY

WHAT DOES ENERGY TRANSITION MEAN FOR THE MARITIME INDUSTRY?

In the maritime industry, the energy transition focuses mainly on moving away from fossil-based fuels and a fossil-based economy towards renewables and biofuels.

Reducing carbon emissions is the most important goal. Moving to LNG is an intermediate step; while it is a big step forward in reducing emissions it still a fossil fuel. If we want to achieve the 2050 targets, we will need to mix it with more sustainable fuels such as bio-LNGs, green hydrogen, or biofuels derived from waste. Ultimately, the aim is to arrive at 100% bio-LNG or even synthetic LNG-fuel.

Switching to bio-LNG or biodiesel does not require major ship modifications. However, switching to hydrogen, ammonia, methanol, or wind energy, will involve modifications.

A large carrier will probably never be powered solely by wind energy, but for certain types of ships this may be possible in the future, or wind energy may serve as a back-up energy supply.

We are still searching for the perfect mix, making it possible to adjust the energy source depending on energy needs and location of the vessel.

START BY PICKING YOUR BATTLES

How do we jump-start these sustainable initiatives within our own organization?

On a practical level, it’s about picking your battles.

Making the transition starts with looking at practical ways to reduce your impact from a sustainability point of view and then focus on that.

This requires time, energy, and attention and there are all sorts of practical implications because there isn’t an established methodology.

I always talk about ‘minding the gap’, because there’s a gap between what people intellectually understand about the need to stop the planet overheating and having a roadmap to get to that point.

What are the steps you take along that route? Nobody has a clear path for that. And that’s at all levels; governments, universities, research institutes and businesses, we are all looking for the best way forward”

– Erica Gray, Sustainability Manager at Mammoet

CROSS-SECTORAL COLLABORATION IS KEY

One of the most powerful ways to accelerate the energy transition is a collaboration between companies, governments and other (non-commercial) parties.

Without collaborations, it will be very hard to achieve the 2050 goals. We need leaders who focus on achieving the goals in the Paris agreement and translate those into what it means for their own companies.

Cross-sectoral collaboration results in a better mutual understanding. You’ve got twice the brain capacity and ideas.

You can compare it to a ship; the vessel functions as whole, yet it consists of pieces of equipment working together and crew working together.

If you can bring about that kind of collaboration in the industry, it will result in a powerful force to accelerate the transition.

At Wärtsilä, we had solutions for producing bio-LNG on the land side, while there was a lot of demand for green fuel from the maritime industry.

We linked those two parties, who originally did not work together because they were active in different industries. It takes time, but it is very rewarding for all parties involved.”

– Claudia Beumer, GM, Global Sales Water and Waste at Wärtsilä Marine

LEVERAGE PURCHASING POWER WITH YOUR SUPPLIERS

In addition to focusing on where you can have the biggest impact and collaborations with partners, it’s also worthwhile to have a conversation with your partners in the supply chain.

Ask your suppliers what they are doing in terms of emission reduction, see if you can work with them to reduce the embedded carbon footprint in their products.

These things haven’t necessarily been asked before, so it’s a matter of starting the conversation.

One of the issues we are facing is the question: who takes the lead? The government, the shipping company, the customer? Many have started their own initiatives, but have we talked to each other?

Now’s our chance to use the energy transition as a catalyst to also turn it into a knowledge transition and network transition. Achieving 2050 goals means we need to start collaborating now. And let’s involve knowledgeable people with practical experience as well, not only ‘spreadsheet wizzards.”

 – Marja Walraven-Behrend, Marketing Manager STC-KNRM

The last couple of years have been difficult because of the market situation, but many oil & gas companies are starting their own transition initiatives.

So change is coming, but sometimes not as fast as suppliers might want.

The key is to be confident of your products, invest the right time and resources, and be ready for your customer.”

Aleyda Ortega, owner at Ortega-Marine

CHOOSE TO WORK FOR CLIENTS WHO SHOW SUSTAINABLE INITIATIVES

As a supplier, you need a launching customer. Many suppliers and contractors have already developed sustainable solutions, but they need clients to invest in new technology.