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Innovation and Technology in Green Shipping – An Interview with Roger Strevens, Wallenius Wilhelmsen

Weeding out inefficiencies in the maritime industry is one of the most important issues that technology and innovation enticingly promise to solve. Which solutions to choose though? There’s a number of factors that a business must consider, but in the case of shipping, regulations will have the largest impact on decisions.

At GST & Shipping2030 Europe, Aime Pascoe, Director of BLUE Communications, spoke to Roger Strevens, Global Head of Sustainability at Wallenius Wilhelmsen, about innovations in the industry and the regulations’ impact on the decision-making process.

Not A Conservative Industry

‘Conservative’ is an adjective that has been used to describe the maritime industry for a long time now and the innovators in the sector have started to openly reject the label, or at least make a distinction between the traditional part of the industry and the pioneers.

“The idea that the industry is conservative doesn’t make sense from our perspective”, Strevens said. “If you participate in a competitive market, you will take any advantage that you can get over your competitors. That can be the reduction of costs to your operations or increasing efficiency. I think the key to unlock both of those is the same; it’s innovation. For the industry, we have the challenge of a generation in front of us: how do we get to a decarbonised future? I think that it’s very clear that what got us to the point that we are at now is not going to get us where we need to be, so we need new things in the toolbox. I think that it’s equally becoming clear that the rather fragmented and relatively low level of coordination in innovation is hindering us. We need to take it to a completely different scale to find those solutions that are going to get us the results that we need.”

Commercial vs Environmental Developments

Justifying investments and calculating ROIs is something that any business developer would have to do, especially when looking at new technologies, but according to Strevens, commercial and environmental interests are not necessarily complete opposites.

“I take an optimistic view on that. I don’t think that those two need to be mutually exclusive and there are already cases in point where there are solutions. I’m thinking of in-water hull cleaning technologies which make pure economic sense, because they save on your fuel consumption – and not in a small way –, while at the same time delivering reductions in all emissions to air and I would also say that it adds a safety [feature] because people are not underwater for it. So there are those kinds of solutions out there, and I think it’s both the challenge and the opportunity for the innovation community to take that kind of approach and apply it to the broader range of challenges that the industry has. And I think whoever finds those solutions, the world is their oyster.”

Enforcement of Environmental Regulations

“The issue is not resolved. […] The focus shouldn’t just be on measurement because the data by itself isn’t going to solve the entire problem; it is what’s done with data or evidence of non-compliance. There are a lot of unanswered questions on that. I also think that as we progress through the environmental issue agenda, we’re increasingly left with this stuff which is difficult, complex, and costly to deal with. And so we could do this as an industry. Sulphur 2020 is hopefully going to be the shining example of that, but only if everybody is on the same page in terms of compliance. That’s the critical part of the success with this event.”

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