In an exclusive interview to SAFETY4SEA, Mr. Carl Schou, CEO and President of Wilhelmsen Ship management mentions key priorities on their agenda, highlighting that building up the right competence will ensure that shipping remains sustainable.
n industry’s journey to energy transition, decarbonization and to face any emerging challenges, Mr. Schou stresses that ‘’this is not an individual race’’ and collaboration on all levels is vital. For example, when it comes to people onboard, we need to work together to create a safe, healthy and secure environment, that goes beyond regulations. Furthermore, as the pandemic revealed, communication is essential; feedback and open communication lines with top management can only have effective results to crew and fleet performance.
SAFETY4SEA: What are your top priorities on your agenda for the next five years?
Carl Schou: High on our agenda is to assist our owners in their fleet transition strategy to meet their decarbonization goals and working on the human capital aspect of shipping to ensure that we have the right competence for shipping to remain sustainable.
S4S: What are the key ESG (Environment, Social, Governance) shipping challenges/ trends up to 2030 and what is your organization doing towards?
C.S.: The journey towards decarbonization is viewed in short term and long term. When it comes to short term, we are preparing our owners to meet the upcoming regulatory requirements of EEXI and CII which will come into effect in Jan 2023. We anticipate that there will be a substantial number of LNG/Duel fueled vessels trading in the next few years. To meet the demand of qualified crew in operating LNG/Duel fueled vessels, we are investing in training and certification of our crew.
When it comes to the long-term horizon towards decarbonization, the Wilhelmsen group are already working on several projects – including Hydrogen fueled vessel (Topeka) and zero emission vessels (Yara Birkeland and Asko vessels). We are taking our experience here and sharing the experience to our clients and business partners. We are also involved in The Silk Alliance, a project spearheaded by Lloyds Decarbonization Hub to develop a fleet transition plan for a green corridor. We are contributing our technical, crewing and ship operation experience in the working group
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?
C.S.: The barrier for managing ships has increased substantially with the gradual increase in environmental rules and regulations. Given there isn’t a straightforward way or one size fit all strategy to meet the future decarbonization goals, as ship managers we seek to provide technical and crewing solutions to fit our owner’s requirements.
One immediate hurdle to tackle at hand within the next 1 or 2 years, is to assist our clients in their CII requirement while ensuring minimal interruption in the commercial aspects. Having a digitalized platform to monitor and analyze emission data is now a pre-requisite for managing ships efficiently, all the more with the implementation of CII where proactive monitoring of emissions is crucial for compliance. Our established data analytics platform and data performance team will play a central role in assisting our clients to make informed decisions based on data in their decarbonization strategy. With new technology onboard to meet the decarbonization goals, we are investing on training to ensure that we have the expertise onshore and onboard to support our client’s fleet transition strategy. Another opportunity on a higher level is that we now need to work in a different and more efficient way. We need to measure our operations much more rigorously and be able to identify deviations from set operational KPIs’. This has led us to re-look how we operate and will benefit our Clients and ourselves.
S4S: From your perspective, how should industry stakeholders work to improve crew welfare and foster seafarers’ resilience?
C.S. All industry stakeholders must unite and work together to recognize and acknowledge companies that are complying the regulations and doing it’s part to provide welfare beyond MLC compliance. With such recognition, it would propel many to others follow and then we would eventually gain industry wide adoption of improved crew welfare.
S4S: What are the current and future seafarer manning and training concerns and what are your plans to adapt with social trends?
C.S.: As mentioned earlier, our top agenda is to build up competence for shipping to remain sustainable. Having the right competence to operate ships powered by new technology is crucial. Adaptation in human behaviors and processes must be done to address any potential safety issues when handling the new bunker. We are investing into training to ramp up our crew supply to operate LNG/duel fueled vessels. Besides technical skills, We are also focusing to increase the soft skills of our officers. Our emphasis is to horn these future leaders to encourage empathy leadership style onboard.
S4S: What lessons has the industry learned with the pandemic? Where should we improve for a future crisis situation?
C.S.: Communication is essential in all crisis. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have kept close communication with our crew to ensure that they are aware of the pandemic progress and kept the communication lines open with top management. It is essential that all concerns and feedback are addressed and taken in for improvement. This has been effective to keep the morale up for our crew onboard and also improving overall fleet performance.
S4S: What actions should we take to collectively create an inclusive and attractive industry for the future generation?
C.S.: Collectively, we need to work together to create a safe, healthy and secure onboard work environment, and goes beyond the ILO Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) to focus on the full spectrum of seafarers’ rights and wellbeing, from fair terms of employment and minimum crewing levels to the management of grievance mechanisms. We are part of a working group organized by the Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI) and the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB), in collaboration with the Rafto Foundation for Human Rights and RightShip, that launched a Code of Conduct and self-assessment tool developed to protect the human rights and welfare of the world’s nearly two million seafarers. The Code of Conduct and self-assessment tool were based on international labour and human rights standards and principles. Its creation took more than eight months after close consultation and collaboration with shipowners, operators, charterers, cargo owners, seafarers’ associations, civil society and others. We recommend everyone to use these as a starting point.
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?
C.S.: In Wilhelmsen Ship Management, we have implemented a number of measures to strengthen our safety culture. We have implemented steps to create a Just culture onboard – Just culture is a culture whereby crew are encouraged to raise any concerns that they feel may impact their work performance or safety. We emphasize heavily on crew communication to create an atmosphere of trust and responsible behavior whereby people are encouraged to have open dialogues to share essential information. We have also implemented Shell’s “Partners in Safety” program on all vessels, as this is a highly recognized program for increasing safety operations onboard. This safety program was initially implemented on our tanker vessels, and we have seen the benefits in increasing safety standards. Hence, we have taken the decision to implement the program on all vessel types in our management. While we are being supported by technology and digitalization tools onboard a ship, we are still a firm believer that it is important to maintain frequent face to face communication with our crew. Hence, where possible we will schedule vessel video conferencing, visits onboard and including visits from top management. Such interaction with crew provides important insights for us to further improve our processes and operations.
S4S: What is your key message to industry stakeholders with regards to a more sustainable future for shipping?
C.S.: We think there is one key message, and that is that this is not an individual race with one winner. In order to succeed the whole shipping industry needs to collaborate on all levels to find solutions for the whole industry.
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.