Government and industry executives discussed sustainability challenges facing the shipping industry onboard Wallenius Wilhelmsen’s latest vessel MV Traviata

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Setting the course for greener shipping

Norway is well-positioned to lead efforts for the transition to low-carbon shipping, but government and shipping executives stress more collaboration, technology and innovation is needed to achieve global emission reduction goals.

Investment in the fields of new technologies and digitalisation and industry-wide collaboration are needed if the shipping industry is to reach the International Maritime Organization (IMO) decarbonisation goals, according to leading figures who gathered for the Wallenius Wilhelmsen sustainable shipping partner event in Oslo. 

The event, which took place onboard Wallenius Wilhelmsen’s new RoRo carrier  Traviata , showcased innovative digital solutions, services and concepts, followed by a debate organised around the theme of “Digitalisation for Decarbonisation”. 

Craig Jasienski, President and Chief Executive Officer of Wallenius Wilhelmsen, made the opening address and shared his thoughts on why the shipping industry must become more sustainable.  

“The past twelve months has been a watershed period for most businesses and most industries, who recognise that sustainability is just how we need to do things now. It’s not a choice anymore. It’s not just morally right, but it is also right for business. We all need to take responsibility for the impact we have on the environment.” 

Jasienski said he was concerned about the long-term impact of climate risk and supports the IMO targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and 2050. 

Mounting pressure  

“The shipping industry is facing mounting pressure from stakeholders to contribute to the global commitment laid out in the Paris Climate Agreement. The IMO’s strategy to reduce greenhouse gases is ambitious and provides a tangible decarbonisation pathway. At the same time, forward-looking government and industry leaders must act and work together for a greener, more sustainable industry.” 

For its part, Wallenius Wilhelmsen is moving early, ahead of new regulations, by implementing initiatives to improve operational efficiencies and cut its emissions. “Between 2008 and 2018 we’ve already reduced emissions by 32 per cent. This is a great step for us but more needs to be done,” emphasised Jasienski.  

An integral part of the transition to low-carbon shipping involves applying the use of innovative digital technologies to optimise vessel designs, engines and propellers, together with in-operation monitoring, said Jasienski. 

“Norway, where most of the technology on our new RoRo  Traviata  is coming from, is a crucible of innovation when it comes to new maritime technology.  For example, we are using innovative digital data analysis and optimisation systems to help reduce the outlay on bunkers by approximately 15 per cent, over similar vessels in the global fleet.  

Collaboration and technology coming together  

“So you can imagine that a vessel saving such an amount of fuel is good for both bottom line and the environment,” said Jasienski and added, “The technology is available and much can be done to make shipping more sustainable. We have a lot of support from our partners. We work across industries, and share our capabilities.  Traviata  is a fine example of how this collaboration and technology all come together.” 

He continued, “We also have a lot of support on a government level here in Norway. That’s vital if the industry is to achieve its emission goals. To get to the next level is going to require a quantum leap, and a huge effort from all of us both on sea and land, and across the entire supply chain.”

Norway’s Minister of Digitalisation Nikolai Astrup congratulated Wallenius Wilhelmsen for its leadership and innovative work. “A growing number of Norwegian shipowners and operators are embracing new technologies to achieve more sustainable operations. Wallenius Wilhelmsen and the highly energy-efficient  Traviata  serves as a prime example of the possibilities if owners and their partners take sustainability seriously."   

Reducing emissions…increasing competitiveness   

“Norway has been at the technological vanguard for many years. The Norwegian Shipowners’ Association and its members deserve credit for their forward thinking. Cutting  carbon emissions in the maritime industry will not only reduce our overall domestic emissions but also build global competitiveness in this growth segment,” said Astrup.   

Astrup firmly believes the Norwegian maritime industry has every opportunity to be at the forefront of new technological developments and become a key player in reducing emissions. Against this backdrop, the government has recently launched an action plan for green shipping, with the ambition to cut greenhouse gas emissions from domestic shipping by 50 per cent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.

The Wallenius Wilhelmsen sustainable shipping event onboard its new RoRo MV Traviata demonstrated the latest digital solutions and services, and provided a platform for interaction between partners and over 200 representatives from local and international maritime sectors.

Astrup keenly emphasised that curtailing emissions in the maritime industry, as in others, is far from a zero-sum game.   

“The ongoing work and investments are not just good for the environment but also for employment and the economy…Norway will continue to promote the introduction of low and zero emission solutions in all shipping segments and hopefully inspire other countries to do the same.”   

Panel session     

The panel debate saw Minister Astrup line up alongside Harald Solberg Chief Executive Officer of Norwegian Shipowners’ Association, Katherine Palmer Global Sustainability Manager of Lloyd’s Register, Morten Stanger Vice President of Kongsberg Maritime, Stein Kjølberg Global Concept Director of Jotun Hull Performance Solutions, and Manoj Mathew Digital Business Manager of Cognizant.   

Moderating the panel debate, Roger Strevens, Vice President Global Sustainability at Wallenius Wilhelmsen, kicked off by asking whether this forward-thinking attitude would drive the Norwegian maritime sector to decarbonise of its own accord.   

“The answer is no,” responded Harald Solberg. “We need to open up more as an industry for the world around us. We cannot reach the goals without policy and financial support from national governments, the regulatory authorities internationally and without high ambitions from the industry itself. There is a need for a good cooperation on all levels.”   

Katherine Palmer said that zero emission vessels must be commercially viable by 2030 to achieve the 2050 goals set by the IMO.  Also, she argued, it is about understanding the disruptive nature of technology and the interplay between different sectors in the whole value chain.   

Holistic view    

“The technology is available today, but in the context of the operation profile and the business models of shipping, it will come at a cost, and with a change in the way we do business.  There are decarbonisation solutions that you could technically put on a ship today, but you have to look at the whole ecosystem and the value chain, and put everything into context so it comes together.”   

Morten Stanger highlighted the opportunities that digital solutions can bring. “Shipping is traditionally a conservative industry but market pressures and regulations are changing the way things are being done. Leading operators understand the benefits of connectivity and using data smartly. Data infrastructure standardisation and access to ecosystems can improve efficiencies and help operators and the industry transition to a low-carbon future.”    

Echoing Stanger’s point about using data smartly, Manoj Mathews said, “Even though the traditional, manual ‘noon reporting’ methods are still being used, more and more operators are exploiting digital solutions to optimise vessel and fleet operations. When everything is connected it is easier for operators to understand the trends and make quicker, better decisions.”    

Cost barrier    

In spite of the growing interest in digital solutions, some operators consider “digitalisation too sophisticated, too expensive” pointed out Strevens, when asking Kjølberg to comment on barriers to investment in digital technologies.   

“Cost is an issue for some. But that’s not surprising since the industry is made of different players with different investment strategies. Experience shows that the best solutions – also when it comes to coatings and performance monitoring tools – tend to bring significant benefits in the long-term. As a general recommendation, the focus should not be on what the solution costs, but rather what it saves. The long-term, sustainability focused operators tend to think this way.”   

Kjølberg believes financial benefits can also be decisive in incentivising and driving both energy efficiency and the take up of digital solutions by shipowners and operators. “The shipping industry is changing and stakeholders like charterers, banks and regulators are all pushing for more transparency and performance monitoring. This development also benefits the coating manufacturers who use vast amounts of data to show customers the potential performance benefits of their antifouling coatings.   

Environmental and commercial benefits    

“Access to data allows us to provide better advice and solutions, while sharing data across digital platforms helps operators meet efficiency requirements and regulatory compliance. Using digitalisation and recognised standards can also open up new opportunities in the form of financial incentives such as better terms from banks, and possible discounts in connection with port, class and insurance fees, and commercial pool points relating to efficiency ratings.    

“Such incentives could help to encourage the take up of new technologies and bring environmental and commercial benefits,” added Kjolberg.    

Commenting on incentives, Mathews said the maritime industry could learn from the aviation industry. “Companies could improve end-to-end efficiencies – and profits – through data sharing as done in the aviation industry. By sharing, everybody gains and that’s important when looking at the supply chain in a holistic manner. Take for instance the bottleneck challenges in the vehicle transportation sector. Vehicles are often delivered on time but then are parked for months at the terminal. Companies need to think about collaborating. They can achieve better efficiencies and sustainable operations by working together.”   

Transformative shift    

The subject of disruption also came into focus during the panel debate. One view is that decarbonisation and digitalisation are two areas stirring major change and operators are “getting nervous” about new, more demanding operational and regulatory requirements.   

“I think the industry stakeholders need to embrace disruption, as we have seen in other industries,” said Minister Astrup. “When it comes to domestic shipping, we are going through a transition from gradual improvement to radical innovation. This initially costs money but going green is going to give you black numbers in the long term. The big challenge is how to take this approach in international shipping.”   

There is no silver bullet, the panel conceded; but more investment in innovation and collaboration is a must amid the changing landscape and tightening environmental regulations.   

License to operate    

“Sustainability is going to become a license to operate,” said Astrup. “The leading Norwegian companies have understood this and are pushing internationally as well because there’s a need for a collaborative effort to make this happen.”    

“It’s very important to look at the combination of decarbonisation and digitalisation as an opportunity, not a threat to our industry,” added Solberg. “The national maritime clusters that grab the opportunity will be well positioned for the future. Norway has started its decarbonisation journey with new ships designs, alternative fuels and digital technologies to realise efficiencies. Now, there’s a need to scale up and push these innovations internationally. This is one of the industries which can make a real difference.”   

Palmer agreed it is a “huge opportunity” for the Norwegian maritime industry. “Norway is very much part of the innovation drive, the pioneering to create that step change needed in the industry – it’s ultimately going to equate to business success.”

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