‘One of our biggest challenges is learning to cooperate and to accelerate’

With the relaunch of the Splash website we asked some famous names in shipping to pen their thoughts on how our industry might change after Covid-19. Thomas Wilhelmsen gladly accepted the challenge. 

Writing my CEO letter for our annual report back in April, I reflected that despite Covid-19, Wilhelmsen was committed to a long-term outlook. In addition, I suggested that the coronavirus could be the ultimate “acid test” for how as an industry we want to do business when things are better and back to ‘normal’. I wondered out loud just who would still be committed to contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals and will continue to walk the talk? 

It is still a little early to judge, but I can say what I would like to see for our industry in a post-Covid-19 world. 

At Wilhelmsen we believe in the positive benefits global trade can have for society – and we believe global trade will grow. But economic growth and increased global trade cannot happen at the expense of the environment or our future generations’ needs. 

The coronavirus could be the ultimate acid test for how as an industry we want to do business when things are better and back to normal

Irrespective of Covid-19’s lasting impact, humanity faces some of its biggest challenges. We have singled out three: Decarbonisation. Marine litter and pollution. Renewable energy. The targets set by us, the industry and the global community will require billions in investments and tons of hard work, dedication, and inspiration over the coming decades. Things will just not happen by themselves, but I remain optimistic that we as an industry can step up.  

However, I believe one of our biggest challenges is learning to cooperate and to accelerate. To use our resources cleverly and have the focus to really make big changes. No person, company or government alone can solve these issues. We need to collaborate across companies and industries, both in the private and public sectors, matching established businesses to entrepreneurs, young talents with experienced operators. Working as one we can create the economies of scale vital to tackle the issues ahead of us. Governmental regulations and not least access to capital to support the green shift are essential. 

As a company we have almost 160 years of experience in changing and adapting to the needs of society, our customers, and our employees. Pre-Covid, the momentum from customers, employees, financial institutions, shareholders, and other industry players, was towards a stronger commitment than ever to explore and invest in tomorrow’s solutions. We remain on that course. 

Hopefully, our industry is too, and together we can work towards long-term targets, real progress and make a substantial difference, solving some of the industry’s and world’s pressing issues. 


  1. I can only agree with Thomas’ view. We are at a tipping point, and what Covid19 has shown is that we have as a species been paying a very high price for the ‘Luxuries’ we have. The long term view is really the only logical one. It is only when a vehicle passes us on an otherwise empty road do we release how much exhaust we have been breathing. One area that is never addressed is that of sound pollution. The reduction in maritime activity has in many areas created an unusually quiet marine sub sea environment, which should have had a beneficial effect on marine life. Can we adress this as well.?

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