Growing green pressure is an opportunity

Christer Sjödoff from GAC Group on shipping’s urgent need to change its mindset.

The largest challenge for the current and next generation of shipping people is our very human ability to change.

Charles Darwin said that it’s neither the strongest nor the most intelligent species that survives but the one most adaptable to change.

We in the shipping community are cautious about making changes and I know our spouses are happy about it but in business it’s different. Change is relentless and remorseless and our ability to adapt is linked to our ability to prosper.

One typical area where change must come is in the way individual departments in a shipping company work together. For many decades, manning, technical, operations, and commercial departments have, in many companies, worked in silos instead of working as integrated teams.

The cost and losses from that business model are buried in the individual departmental accounts but more importantly, the synergies and efficiencies that can arise when teams work together more closely, can only be discovered by doing it. And that requires a change in attitude if we want to make real change and progress.

In the movement towards greener technologies for shipping, critical change areas are fuel efficiency, emissions control and human skillsets.

Clearly, more transparency is required to break through the barriers of resistance to change that too often dominate our industry. But it’s understandable because people have a natural fear of change and more importantly, a fear of failure. Failure has a powerful hold on our willingness to try new things.

Successful companies – I’m thinking of Toyota as an example, have learned to celebrate failures for the knowledge they bring to the corporation. Toyota’s view is that it’s better to try and fail than not to try at all. That progress is as much about what doesn’t work as about what does.

Those who believe that taking no decision means they have avoided doing anything wrong are themselves, on the wrong track.

Today’s business climate is changing at lightning speed and businesses are increasingly embracing the ‘green’ concept. Hence, we have to recognise the need to provide the best technological tools available for our cost-conscious customers who want a greener world.

Smart shipping people with open minds to new green technologies and new business methods, will be the deciding factor in how well the shipping industry embraces the changes that are needed to save fuel, cut emissions and improve efficiencies.

As regulations grow tighter and margins grow thinner, we can either throw our hands up in despair or we can see the growing pressure as an opportunity.


Adapted from a presentation given at Sea Asia in Singapore in April.


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