In an exclusive interview to SAFETY4SEA, Mr. Gerald Tan, Head of Commercial (East) and General Manager, Ardmore Shipping, suggests it is time to focus on crew welfare and make a positive change, following the challenges due to the pandemic. As such, rebuilding trust with seafarers and their families, focusing on diversity and inclusion and fostering strategies to embrace young talents are key priorities.
On the environmental front, Mr Tan expects new EEXI and CII to affect positively the industry and highlights that only if investing in new technologies and alternative fuels, stakeholders could contribute to a more sustainable shipping.
SAFETY4SEA: What are your top priorities in the agenda for the next 5 years?
Gerald Tan: Keeping ourselves grounded in these positive markets. That said, we are looking to grow smartly, always being disciplined in our analysis and outlook. Strengthening our financial position, as mentioned in our public announcements, paying down expensive debt remains a priority. Looking after our staff both at sea and ashore, making sure that we remain balanced and united in our purpose by working together to support one another.
S4S: What are the key ESG (Environment, Social, Governance) shipping challenges/ trends up to 2030 and what is your organization doing towards?
G.T: There is no doubt that ESG is (and always has been since the company was founded) a natural part of Ardmore’s evolution. Each of the 3 ‘E’, ‘S’ and ‘G’ pillars are recognized individually within Ardmore and we have core activities related to each aspect that are part of our daily lives including setting targets for sustainable development goals. This is laid out in our annual Progress Report which can be accessed through our website. The environmental agenda is immediately something that everyone identifies with. Ardmore has an active Energy Transition Plan which brings together the entire organization under a coordinated set of activities and initiatives aimed at addressing the many challenges related to the decarbonization agenda
S4S: They say that there is a gift/ opportunity in every challenge. Given the challenges that shipping is facing in way of decarbonization, what sort of opportunities do you identify?
G.T.: CII and EEXI will be affecting us like many others. Although this comes with a cost, we do not believe this is all bad. EEXI should increase scrapping of older units. Whilst CII will impact not just trading patterns but will likely translate into slower steaming of vessels as well. Overall, this should tighten the supply of tonnage and is good for shipping.
S4S: From your perspective, how should industry stakeholders work to improve crew welfare and foster seafarers’ resilience?
G.T.: As an industry, re-building trust with our seafarers is essential especially since the impact of Covid was so hard felt by so many. Making sure that this is an industry where diversity, equity and inclusion are practiced and that biases of the past are challenged and changed. Making sure that new talent is attracted to our industry meaning grass roots engagements within schools fostering a sense of excitement and purpose. Considering families at home in times of crisis and working with support agencies and charities to help those whose loved ones are far away at sea.
S4S: What are the current and future seafarer manning and training concerns and what are your plans to adapt with social trends?
G.T.: New fuels coming as part of the decarbonization agenda are going to need new training routines and a different form of qualification standard. Basic seamanship skills cannot be overlooked against IT or computer skills, we still need maintenance to be carried out in the harsh and unforgiving world at sea under bad weather. Training institutions need to be flexible in their ability to keep up to date with the rapidly changing landscape combining digital with technical developments.
S4S: What lessons has the industry learned with the pandemic? Where should we improve for a future crisis situation?
G.T.: Seafaring is an essential global trade and it requires a level of international respect that Covid 19 did not represent fairly. The lessons learned were harsh in that so many suffered unnecessarily and we have lost many to other industries as a result. Ship owners and technical managers need to collaborate more in times of international crisis and work together to find common solutions or present one voice to the UN and others who have to take action to support this industry better.
S4S: What actions should we take to collectively create an inclusive and attractive industry for the future generation?
G.T.: Understand that individual nationalities may each view this topic through a different lens. In a truly international industry, this cannot become a ‘western’ ideal, it has to be embraced globally by all nations. Where traditionally a large proportion of seafarers may largely come from poorer countries where inclusivity is not widely practiced, we have to understand that boardroom ideals and onboard implementation are not through writing a policy but through practical examples that respect different cultures allowing positive change to be sustainably adopted rather than simply getting lip service to an ideal.
S4S: In your view, has the industry been successful in implementing safety culture? What should be our key priorities for strengthening safety culture onboard and ashore?
G.T.: The SIRE system within tankers has to be hailed as the single most impressive and collaborative approach to improving safety standards at sea. Other sectors should study this as a model. It is clear from P&I statistics that more needs to be done to improve safety at sea, particularly in the container industry where there are way too many container fires and losses onboard ships. Strengthening safety culture starts with positive leadership at all levels, but particularly practicing what you preach from the CEO to the cadet onboard. Positive leadership is about speaking up when someone sees something that isn’t right, mental safety is a particularly good case in point.
S4S: Do you have any new projects/ plans that you would like to share with industry stakeholders?
G.T.: We have invested in a joint venture company e1 Marine. The company specializes in methanol and water combined to hydrogen reformation. This can be used to propel smaller port craft or hotel load on bigger deep sea vessels. The system produces zero NOx, zero Sox and less Co2 than a diesel generator. At the moment it is being used for tow boats in the US and we believe there is a significant market potential for the adoption of ‘hydrogen on demand’ using the safe and efficient methanol as a feedstock.
S4S: What is your key message to industry stakeholders with regards to a more sustainable future for shipping?
G.T.: For the longest time different sectors have been experiencing terrible markets. For a variety of reasons this has changed recently and many are now in a significantly better financially standing. Let us never forget the lessons of the bad times and not simply overbuild the sectors again. Besides fleet growth and balance sheets alone, sustainability should be on our minds. We are now in a better position to contribute to a more sustainable future through purposeful investment. There are many options available, be it investing in new technologies or using different fuels we should all be doing our part.
The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and not necessarily reflect those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.
Leave a Reply