In an exclusive interview to SAFETY4SEA, Mr. Nick Potter, who heads Shell Shipping & Maritime for Asia, Pacific and the Middle East, highlights the importance of developing a learning culture in the workplace for enhanced safety and operational performance. In that regard, leadership plays a vital role so that everyone feels empowered and supported.
r. Potter also explains how Shell deals with decarbonization challenges and contributes to a more sustainable industry. In that regard, they invest in different fuels and technologies and promote collaboration with the wider shipping supply chain. ‘’ This is an exciting opportunity and time to be in our industry and to make a difference.’’ Mr. Potter concludes.
SAFETY4SEA: What are your top priorities in the agenda for the next 5 years?
Nick Potter: It’s simple, the safety of our seafarers is my number one priority. The difficult days of the crew change crisis are hopefully behind us, but this doesn’t mean we can take our eye off the ball when it comes to supporting seafarers and their mental and physical wellbeing. We must continue to drive towards a zero-incident industry. But we have to do this together. This is why I am so proud to work alongside Shell’s 500 maritime partners and of the improvements we have seen in reducing the frequency of serious or potentially serious incidents through the Partners in Safety Programme.
Another priority is to ensure our industry is fit for the future and this must include our human capital – our people. The maritime sector has some way to go on diversity and this doesn’t happen without making conscious choices. I am also committed to ensure our maritime professionals, including seafarers, have the necessary skills and behaviours to be able to adapt to Industry 4.0 including having up-to-date digital skills as well as the right competences with future lower and zero carbon fuels. I am looking forward to co-chairing the Tripartite Advisory Panel in Singapore and bringing together industry thought leaders to consider future-ready skillsets for maritime talent. And, of course, we have a responsibility to lower shipping emissions today, and to drive efforts to accelerate the industry’s transition to net-zero emissions.
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?
N.P.: Being one of the largest charterers of ships, both a fuel supplier and fuel user, ship operator and technology provider, Shell wears many hats in the maritime sector to help contribute to change. I have a deep personal commitment to make a difference. It is clear to us that the industry cannot afford to wait until zero-carbon fuels are available at scale. Shell has a clear and unambiguous target to become a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050.
We have started on our decarbonisation journey and are committed to supporting our customers on their journey. We see opportunities in the pathways available now that will deliver emissions reduction including LNG, biofuels for blending, energy efficient technologies (EETs) and digital optimisation. Combining lower-carbon fuels, digitalisation and EETs today goes a material way to meeting 2050 reduction targets. Looking ahead, we believe the future of shipping is likely to be hydrogen-based and Shell is investing in developing hydrogen-derived fuels and fuel cells which could offer a pathway to net-zero.
Other industries may drive the demand signals for these fuels. What I am encouraging is that our industry focuses on unlocking the technology, safety and regulations needed and comes together to aggregate demand to help accelerate future supply.
S4S: From your perspective, how should industry stakeholders work to improve crew welfare and foster seafarers’ resilience?
N.P.: Firstly, I believe more needs to be done to improve seafarer welfare. It’s important that efforts continue to be made to improve the health and well-being of crew onboard, including reducing the stigma around mental health. Care for our People is critical. Industry studies have shown that many crew members don’t feel comfortable to discuss mental wellbeing or they do not have access to programmes or helplines they can turn to for support. I also urge more players to share resources to improve wellbeing. For example, Shell has made available at maritimewellbeing.com a suite of programmes we created that are directly applicable to seafarers and improving their wellbeing. This is based on an extensive study we commissioned.
S4S: What actions should we take to collectively create an inclusive and attractive industry for the future generation?
N.P.: The industry needs to spend time developing the value proposition of a seagoing career. However, the plight of seafarers during the COVID-19 pandemic has further tarnished this so there is a need to rebuild confidence.
Aspects to focus on a long-term position include:
(a) We need to do a much better job of demonstrating where a career at sea can lead to. (b) We need to listen to our seafarers more by showing more empathy and taking action on feedback.
(c) We need to look more at their living conditions to improve the working and living environment onboard.
S4S: What should be the key priorities for strengthening safety culture onboard and ashore?
N.P.: I believe safety culture starts from the top with visible felt leadership. Leaders need to make this a focus visibly and continually a number one topic. This will naturally lead to prioritisation on this within organisations. For me, this means everything I do and everything I say reinforces my commitments around safety and caring for colleagues and for the seafarers that support us. I am regularly committed to going onboard or virtually visiting our partners’ ships and listening and learning from our seafarers.
It is also about creating a psychologically safe environment onboard. A culture where everyone feels empowered and supported to speak up and creating a learning environment for safety and operational improvement. With colleagues, we regularly talk about taking a learner mindset to everything we do and being humble enough to learn.
S4S: Do you have any new projects/ plans that you would like to share with industry stakeholders?
N.P.: Shipping is a hard to abate sector. So, we need to make incremental steps to innovate to make a difference. Across Shell we are involved in some really exciting steps around the technology for lower and zero carbon fuels. Shell has announced a number of technology and shipowner collaborations. In August, we signed on as one of the partners supporting the green corridor established between the Maritime & Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and the Port of Rotterdam. We look forward to opportunities to work towards joint bunkering pilots and trials for digitalisation, as well as the use of low and zero carbon fuels along the route. Our first hydrogen fuel cell trial pilot will commence in 2023 in Singapore. We are also working towards the launch of our fully-electric ferry service in the first half of next year, a Singapore first. In addition, we have been engaging other players as there is the opportunity for spare capacity of our electric ferry charging infrastructure to be used by other harbour craft operators locally.
S4S: What is your key message to industry stakeholders with regards to a more sustainable future for shipping?
N.P.: We are all aware of the challenges that make shipping a hard-to-abate sector. These include low demand for alternative fuels, high upfront costs and the need for continual efforts in achieving a global regulatory framework that encourages greater investment in infrastructure and technology. However, we cannot allow these to obscure the viable pathways to net zero available today, which includes electrification and hybrid solutions for short-sea shipping, and the use of biofuels and LNG for deep-sea vessels.
As we continue exploring the viability of, and investing in, different fuels, technologies and solutions to bring about a decarbonised future for shipping, we also look forward to more collaboration with the industry and the wider shipping supply chain to make decarbonisation a reality. For me personally, this is an exciting opportunity and time to be in our industry and to make a difference.
The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.