In our special column this month, we are glad to host an interview with Valter Selén who as EcoPorts coordinator with ESPO, he is responsible for the flagship environmental management tool of the port sector, whilst developing guidance for ports seeking to go green. Through his work, Mr. Selén has the opportunity to promote ambitious climate and environmental policy whilst leading the way on these issues in the maritime sector.
SAFETY4SEA: How did it come about that you joined shipping industry and your field of expertise specifically?
Valter Selen: The maritime sector and ports sit right at the intersection of my personal interests, and my professional pursuits. I come from the Swedish city of Malmö, which has a strong maritime tradition and long heritage as an important shipbuilding and wharf city. As my hometown has changed, the port has changed with it, and influenced the transformation of Malmö into a modern knowledge hub that hosts the World Maritime University. Having seen how ports can be part of the wider local community sparked a general interest in ports and the maritime the sector.
After university I wanted to work with EU decision-making in the fields of climate and environmental policy. With the publication of the European Green Deal in 2019, everything was suddenly on the table including the maritime sector, which is about to be included in EU climate policy. Working with environmental and climate issues in the maritime sector representing ports sits at the intersection of my different interests, whilst building on my personal experiences from growing up in a port city. As nodes of multimodal transport and clean energy hubs, ports are where emissions and environmental challenges come together, making them well-placed to enable a transition towards zero-emissions in the sector.
When I started working in the shipping unit in DG CLIMA (European Commission), it was a chance to specialise in addressing the environmental and climate impacts of the shipping sector. The experience gave me first-hand experience with shipping legislation, and showed the crucial role of ports in the decarbonisation of shipping. I use this experience in my current position as senior policy advisor, and I let past experiences inform my efforts to represent the interests of European seaports towards EU institutions.
S4S: What about your current job/ role most excites you and why?
V.S.: My current role is exciting since it provides an opportunity to represent the interests of ports on the European level, promoting ambitious climate and environmental policy whilst leading the way on these issues in the maritime sector. As EcoPorts coordinator with ESPO, I am responsible for the flagship environmental management tool of the port sector, whilst developing guidance for ports seeking to go green as part of the upcoming ESPO Green Guide 2021. In summary, I feel that I am in the right place at the right time.
S4S: What is the best and what was the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given and why?
V.S.: During an evaluation meeting, one of my former superiors told me that when horseback-jumping, there is a moment before a jump where the rider takes a moment to “collect the horse”. This makes sure that both rider and horse are in sync before they make the jump. She told me this to illustrate that major decisions and tasks require serious thought and careful deliberation. As an impatient person keen to get things done as soon as possible, her advice reminds me to allow for a moment of reflection before making major decisions, and to think things before moving ahead. As for the worst advice, I hope that I managed to forget it as soon as I received it.
S4S: What is the most worthwhile career investment (in energy, time, money) you’ve ever made?
V.S.: Deciding to get a double-degree Masters in European Governance was a formative experience for me, and gave me so many opportunities to learn and grow. Networking with fellow Swedes and different people in Brussels also proved very useful. Tangibly, I was able to secure an interview for a temporary job in the European Commission by getting recommended through a Swedish Commission employee who I met at a conference.
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?
V.S.: There is a constant tension between listening to others and understanding their views, whilst staying true to your own professional priorities and personal beliefs. To echo the great footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic; always listen, never listen. Instead of trying to resolve this cognitive dissonance, I would tell my younger self see it as desirable, but not always possible, to both listen and not listen at the same time.
S4S: In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your business life?
V.S.: Over time, I have come to understand that doing someone a favour is almost always a good idea, even if that favour is never returned. As a habit, keeping notes and making lists is indispensable.
S4S: What is your personal motto?
V.S.: Fortune favours the prepared.
The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and do not necessarily those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.