In an exclusive interview to SAFETY4SEA, Pelle Sommansson, Chief Operating Officer and EVP, ZeroNorth, highlights the need for the widespread adoption of data-driven technologies by the industry in the coming years which are crucial for shipping’s green transition.
igital technologies are helping to standardise and improve data collection and reporting, and provide critical information on a fleet’s performance, Pelle Sommansson explains, concluding that adoption of solutions must accelerate if the industry is to meet its sustainability goals.
SAFETY4SEA: What are the top priorities on your agenda for the next five years?
Pelle Sommansson: Enabling the industry’s decarbonisation is a key priority for us at ZeroNorth, and the next five years will be crucial for shipping’s green transition. With growing regulatory and reputational demand for tangible decarbonisation action, businesses are looking for solutions that support both their immediate and future sustainability goals. At ZeroNorth, we have a clear vision of a green future for global trade and realise that to incentivise change, the industry needs solutions that drive operational efficiencies and that result in immediate commercial benefits, as well as reduced emissions. Data-driven technologies enable organisations to make the most of the information they already have, and we are ambitious and optimistic about the future and the positive impact we can generate by connecting the dots across the global trade value chain.
S4S: From your perspective, what are the key barriers that the maritime industry is currently facing with regards to decarbonization? What are your suggestions to turn these into opportunities?
P.S.: There’s a lot the industry is doing to make zero-carbon shipping a reality, but the adoption of solutions to enable optimised, more efficient operations remains slow. This is largely due to existing data silos and a lack of standardisation across the value chain, which is holding companies back from fully optimising operations and maximising their potential for positive environmental impact. It’s not that the industry isn’t already looking at optimisation; it’s already adopting weather routing, improving its reporting practices and improving its bunker procurement processes. The main issue is that this is all being done in silos and, without any connecting thread, we’re limiting our ability to take joint steps towards more sustainable outcomes. We can turn data into a decarbonisation opportunity by adopting solutions that enable the collection, analysis and reporting of data on one platform. This creates a single source of truth for the entire maritime value chain, enabling all stakeholders to see the bigger picture and better understand the impact of decision-making. From here, organisations can identify focus areas to drive efficiencies that will benefit profit and planet.
S4S: Are you satisfied with progress made towards maritime decarbonization so far? What would you like to see up to 2030?
P.S.: The industry has come a long way over the last few years, but it still has farther to go if it is to meet the IMO’s target of 40% emissions reduction by 2030. We simply can’t wait for tomorrow, and taking steps towards meeting shipping’s decarbonisation goals will require the right skills, solutions and ways of thinking for today’s environment. By not embracing technology, data, and the voyage optimisation potential that is currently available, the industry is effectively not enabling the green transition to happen – and is risking its future success and sustainability as a result. Optimisation and efficiencies will contribute an estimated 20% of the overall reductions needed to reach net zero, and so in the run-up to 2030, it’s important we all embrace solutions that support the realisation of business and decarbonisation goals in the short term, while also preparing for and enabling future success.
S4S: What are some of the key actions you are taking to lead the green transition of the shipping industry?
P.S.: As the industry moves towards unchartered territory with the introduction of new environmental regulations, visibility and transparency will become critical to doing business. ZeroNorth is driving the green transition by elevating visibility and transparency across the global trade value chain. Data points from across businesses are brought together into one solution, where they are analysed to generate insights that can enhance decision-making, improve collaboration and drive more sustainable operations. This kind of collaborative data utilisation can have tangible and measurable impacts. In fact, we recently announced that the ZeroNorth platform prevented 443,780 tonnes of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere in 2022 all by optimising organisations’ daily operational needs and connecting players across the value chain. We also aim to be an active and collaborative organisation, reaching out across industry segments and competitive boundaries to reduce barriers to immediate emission reductions, and help customers define their decarbonisation roadmaps. Whether through our participation in industry organisations or our own Impact Today working group, ZeroNorth is taking steps to lead the green transition through initiatives like championing standardisation, connecting thought leaders and advocating for policies that positively impact the green transition.
S4S: What do you aspire with your recent collaboration with the Global Maritime Forum and the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping? What will be your next steps?
P.S.: ZeroNorth is proud to be working with industry leaders in decarbonisation like the Global Maritime Forum and the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping, and we’re looking forward to the next steps in our partnership. As a collaborative organisation, these partnerships provide us with unique opportunities to lower the barriers to decarbonisation and find innovative solutions on the path to net zero emissions in shipping by 2050. In terms of next steps, will continue driving the green transition in our role as a Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping Mission Ambassador and by working as part of the Global Maritime Forum’s Short-Term Actions Taskforce. Through the taskforce, we will help to define a new roadmap to drive immediate emissions reductions that can be taken up by shipping companies, including helping to quantify the impact of speed and routing optimisation.
S4S: How can industry stakeholders best use technology and data in support of sustainable development?
P.S.: The best way for the industry to embrace sustainable shipping is to step into the digital age. It is no longer a nice-to-have to use digital technologies but, rather, a key pillar of doing good business. Digital technologies are helping to standardise and improve data collection and reporting, and provide critical information on a fleet’s performance. As the backbone of optimisation, high-quality data insights are instrumental to building a deeper understanding of operations, enabling regulatory compliance and identifying areas for further improvement.
S4S: If you could change one thing from your perspective what this one thing would it be and why?
P.S.: If there was one thing I could change on the path to decarbonisation, it would be the speed at which things are changing. I believe in general that as an industry, we’re on the right path towards sustainability, but there’s still a lot of work to do. We know what needs to be done, we’ve known for years, it’s just not being done quickly enough.
S4S: What is your message to industry stakeholders with regards to a more sustainable future for shipping?
P.S.: Shipping is currently undergoing a seismic transformation as it undergoes decarbonisation. While the shift is undoubtedly necessary – without action, the industry will be responsible for 11% of global emissions by 2050 – it is a time of great upheaval for businesses across the maritime value chain. However, decarbonisation also represents an opportunity for shipping to chart a better path, both for profit and planet. Optimisation on all fronts – technical, operational and commercial – can also yield meaningful profits, but adoption of solutions must accelerate if the industry is to meet its sustainability goals.
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.