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Visionary Leadership for Change

The focus of this year's Nor-Shipping conference in Oslo was harnessing the power of  cross-sector partnerships, to drive the green transformation of the maritime industry. 

We were excited to host an exclusive panel discussion, entitled Visionary Leadership for Change. Our CEO Søren Meyer moderated the discussion, and he was joined by an exciting panel, made up of: 

  • Julian Bray, Editor-in-Chief at Tradewinds
  • Bill Dobie, CEO at Sedna 
  • Ali Jourabchi, CEO at Prosmar Bunkering and 
  • Kimberly Mathisen, CEO at HUB Ocean 

Søren kicked off the conversation by asking: how can effective leadership cultivate an appetite for collaboration, particularly when it comes to working with people who are reluctant to engage? Here are the solutions and innovations our panel came up with. 

Be brave and innovative

In the shipping industry, it's crucial to embrace innovation, stick your neck out, think differently and foster deep collaboration. Initiatives like the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping exemplify the power of pre-competitive arenas for collective progress. By sharing pre-competitive data and creating green corridors, we can accelerate positive change. Let's be brave and innovative, and encourage support within our organisations for the rewarding journey ahead.

Show empathy and respect 

The challenge we face in the tech industry and in our commitment to drive change, is that many shippers have developed practices and habits that are hard to break. It's not that the industry lacks innovation or a desire for change, but there is a fear of making mistakes that could lead to financial loss or environmental damage. Let’s face it, if something goes wrong on a ship, it can be catastrophic.

We need to approach these concerns with empathy and understanding, acknowledging the complexities and hard work involved in their daily operations. It's important to respect their existing workflows while introducing new possibilities for improvement.

Use data to adapt 

While the bunker market has evolved significantly, the workflow of bunker procurement managers and companies hasn't kept pace. The introduction of new regulations and green fuels means the complexity has increased and industry professionals need to adapt and use data differently to stay afloat.

A collaborative effort is needed between leaders and technology providers to support and enable the changing landscape. CEOs and stakeholders need to drive this change and ensure buy-in from all levels of the organisation, while service providers need to understand customer needs and develop user-friendly software to facilitate this transformation.

Break down data silos

The shipping industry has traditionally lacked access to sufficient data, making the task of digitalisation, sustainability and data integration even more challenging. Part of this problem is that the sector is characterised by fragmented market dynamics, particularly on the buyer side. Without sharing information and data, the value and usability of available resources is limited. However, with advancements in technology, the current landscape enables us to move beyond mere noise and access valuable data that can drive informed decision-making.

We are now at a stage where sharing information is not only considered important, it is also highly sought after. People are recognising the benefits and value derived from sharing data, which in itself is a significant achievement. This positive trend indicates a shift towards a more collaborative and data-driven approach within the industry, which bodes well for future progress and decision-making capabilities.

Be honest, clear and humble

There is often a lack of clarity and a disconnect between what companies say and what they actually do when it comes to sustainability. Many companies focus on small actions or make long-term promises without taking substantial, immediate steps. This kind of approach can be seen as mere political posturing, rather than genuine commitment. 

Transitioning to sustainable practices is a long-term process, and requires a leader who is grounded in reality and takes meaningful actions. It's important to communicate honestly, humbly, and with a genuine understanding of the company's current capabilities and the journey ahead. Only then will they gain trust and inspire others to join the cause.

Be a vanguard

The level of transparency and disclosure required around sustainability over the next year or so will surpass your worst risk management nightmares. As a company, you have a choice to make: will you embrace change and position yourself as a leader in the industry? Or will you choose to remain among the fearful and hesitant, unwilling to take risks and stand out? 

To be at the forefront of change, it's imperative you have the support of your financial investors. Initiate discussions in the boardroom, and create a compelling narrative around sustainability that demonstrates how these transformations tie into your business strategy. Engaging in a dialogue with your board members will help align their interests with the industry's new direction. 

Up-skill your workforce

A tidal wave is going to hit the market and the industry is unprepared for the demands of decarbonisation reporting. Therefore, it is crucial that leaders recognise the need to invest not only in technology, but also in the efforts to ensure its effective use. Merely investing in technology at the beginning of the journey without considering adoption and skill enhancement will hinder progress and limit potential achievements. Upskilling, education and training are essential to embrace and measure shifts in decarbonisation, supply chain and AI. 

Surprising industry leaders

While the shipping industry is unprepared for the transformative changes demanded by decarbonisation, cargo charters' proactive stance and profitability offer hope. They may hold untapped insights and strategies, signalling a positive direction for the industry.

It is somewhat ironic that some of the most compelling leadership initiatives addressing environmental issues in the shipping industry come from major cargo interests, particularly large dry bulk charters. These companies are historically known for their relentless pursuit of profit without much regard for social and environmental impacts. However, they have recognised the significance of carbon emissions associated with their operations, and are now taking measures to control and reduce them. Within the dry cargo sector, they have been instrumental in driving significant changes.

Greener future

This panel debate brought up some interesting and frank discussions. Achieving decarbonisation requires cross-sector partnerships, as no single actor can accomplish it alone.

This type of collaboration requires visionary, brave leadership, which encourages an open dialogue and data sharing. Only then can we accelerate the adoption of digital solutions and drive positive industry change towards a greener future.