A bird's-eye view can help in taking the steps necessary to avoid being perceived as a 'dirty industry' in public opinion, says Seven Seas Technology chief technology officer and founder Baard Alsaker
Public opinion is changing. More and more people around the world are anxious about the effect of global warming and ocean plastic. Governments introduce new legislation for LED lightbulbs to replace traditional ones. EV-cars are flooding the market and car manufacturers struggle to keep up with the demand. Red meat is replaced by meat-free alternatives. These are just a few examples of a trend towards a more energy-conscious society. Whether this is a megatrend or not is up for discussion, but we can hardly deny that energy consciousness is a popular trend among the younger generation.
How will this affect our industry, or will it affect us at all? In my mind it will, but please bear in mind this is my opinion. As society gradually moves towards a low energy consumption scenario in more and more aspects of daily life, public opinion will start focusing on industries with high energy consumption – industries regarded as dirty industries.
I do not agree that our industry will ever deserve to be labelled as dirty, because it is the most important cornerstone for the low energy consumption society. Without ocean-going cargo transport, the roads would be packed with trucks. Without the offshore oil and gas industry we would not have the raw material for engineered products to make energy-efficient solutions. Without the offshore wind industry, we could not replace fossil fuels with renewable energy.
However, we cannot lean back and rest because we know we are necessary. Public opinion will not necessarily understand that our industry is a cornerstone, and politicians need to keep the voters happy. When public opinion turns against our industry, the politicians will enforce legislation and penalties that will hurt us all.
What can we as an industry do about this? How can we protect ourselves from being labelled as a dirty industry? I have for the last five or six years spent most of my time dealing with these two questions, and I believe the solution is as simple as it gets. The industry must be proactive and be at the head of public opinion. We must use our knowledge and skills to transform our businesses, making ours the most energy-conscious industry known.
This is of course easier said than done. Many people will argue that our fleet is what it is. And they are mostly right. There are a lot of old assets locked in with bank loans, many of which cannot be transformed into low energy consuming assets. But the right starting point is not fleet or individual vessels – we must start at the top.
By taking a bird’s-eye view of our industry we will be able to make changes to our business cases, the way we organise the fleet, the various tasks a vessel need to perform and so on. To quote organisational consultant Simon Sinek, we have to start with ‘Why?’. Why does a vessel need to spend many days every year in transit from A to B? Why do we construct multi-purpose vessels instead of multi-transformable vessels? Why does every shipowner need to have an overcapacity in their fleet instead of a group of shipowners sitting down and setting up a vessel-sharing pool?
One year ago, I formed a start-up company with a vision of ‘Shaping the industry through environmentally sustainable offshore handling equipment.’ My new company focuses every day on the why, and we try every day to peel the onion, getting closer and closer to the core. I will not try to brag and say we have all the solutions and answers in place, but I truly believe we are on the right track. Simply because we every day ask the question, why? My hope for the future is that my industry leader colleagues will start asking the same question, and that they will put energy consumption on their agenda, right beside digitalisation. A focus on energy consumption will be just as important as digitalisation if we want to survive in the future. Low energy consumption has to become the buzzword of tomorrow.