In our special column this month, we are glad to host an interview with Mrs. Gudrun Janssens, Head of Environmental & Technical Affairs, Royal Belgian Shipowners Association, who has discovered the benefits of outdoor sports during these couples years, realizing that such activities have made her a better person both in her professional and personal life.
ith regards to maritime industry, she wishes that all environmentally related topics could get the same level of attention as there is still so much work on the table. ”We need governments to find a common understanding and agreement, so they can take the measures this industry needs to keep moving.”, she highlights.
SAFETY4SEA: How did it come about that you joined shipping industry and your field of expertise specifically?
Gudrun Janssens: I have a background in Chemistry & Environmental Sciences. Back in 2005 shipping was considered to be one of the most polluting industries. It only just started to pick up pace when it came to environmental regulations. Not many colleagues at the Ministry of Environment wanted to be even associated with it, but to me it seemed fascinating. So I volunteered. It was amazing how little we knew about the shipping industry and/or how well they had shielded themselves.
S4S: What about your current job/ role most excites you and why?
G.J.: The dynamics in the industry. The speed with which the industry picked up pace over the past 10 years regards environmental awareness is enormous, although it varies between States, companies and associations worldwide. Trying to hold the course we have set for ourselves at the Belgian Shipowners association, amidst all these currents, is challenging and yet fascinating. We are determined to leave a healthier planet behind.
S4S: Who is/was the most influential person/mentor to you & why?
G.J.: Dr Nikos Mikelis, former Head, Marine Pollution Prevention section at the IMO. My first meetings at the IMO I attended the ship recycling working group. It was a tough subject, and coming from the environmental field, at that time, I felt a real stranger in the IMO between all these naval architects and marine engineers. Dr Mikelis’ engagement, zeal, integrity, intelligence and holistic approach worked inspiring.
S4S: What is the best and what was the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given and why?
G.J.: The best would be “Little by little, the egg will walk”. When things don’t seem to work out at first sight, or take too long, I take a deep breath and remind myself to be patient, to stick to my goals. Things have their way of working out.
S4S: What is the most worthwhile career investment (in energy, time, money) you’ve ever made?
G.J.: Being the Belgian focal point for ship recycling. Although there were times that I was done with all the discussions with the industry, the NGO’s ánd the legislators. From the environmental side, we almost believed shipowners would wear high hats, smoke cigars and count dollars all day. And on the other side, it felt as if the maritime industry was not really waiting for a green civil servant, whom they believed did probably not know the difference between an oil tanker and a container vessel. But holding on, getting all stakeholders around the table and trying to make it all work was worth the while.
S4S: If you could give a piece of advice to your 18-year-old-self one thing, what would it be and why? What piece of advice should you ignore?
G.J.: The advice I would give is never to ignore advice. Also opposite opinions have their merit and you need at least to hear them out. It will allow you to, regardless what you do, or whom you work for, to be sure that the decision you have taken, has been well assessed and explored from different views. No one can take away that type of confidence.
S4S: In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your business life?
G.J.: Out-door sports such as cycling, running,… it takes my mind of things that keep me busy and at the same time, it then suddenly rewards me by giving me the answer to some challenges I needed to tackle. I’m sure that sports make me a better person, in the job and in my personal life as well.
S4S: What would you like to change in the current maritime landscape and your area of expertise specifically and why?
G.J.: If I could change anything, I would like to see that all environmentally related topics get the same level of attention. There is still so much work on the table. But Covid-19 caused a tremendous delay at the IMO. At the same time it made it hard for people to just speak to one another, which made the discussions even more difficult. Yet, it is precisely at the IMO that we need governments to find a common understanding and agreement, so they can take the measures this industry needs to keep moving.
S4S: What is your personal motto?
G.J.: Every cloud has its silver lining.
The views presented are only those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.