November is often considered to be the darkest and gloomiest time of the year in the Baltic Sea region. The days are short and chilly, and the sun rarely makes an appearance over our shores. This year, ECOPRODIGI decided to defy the blustery winds and damp grey skies of November to host two future-oriented and forward-looking events in Copenhagen, Denmark. Both events were targeted to stakeholders working in and with maritime industry and to those interested in the digitalisation of the industry.

Future Foresight workshop

On Wednesday, the 20th of November, ECOPRODIGI’s second Future Foresight workshop brought together an eager bunch of experts to discuss and collaborate on the process of creating a digitalisation roadmap to increase eco-efficiency in the Baltic Sea region’s maritime sector. Similarly to the previous workshop organised in Klaipeda, the workshop in Copenhagen was coordinated by ECOPRODIGI project partner Danish Maritime and moderated by strategic foresight, business model innovation and scenario-based strategising expert Dr. Matthew Spaniol from Aarhus University.

The workshop built upon the work done in the previous workshop Klaipeda focusing on applying the tools from the strategic foresight toolbox to open up, explore, and map the range of plausible future trajectories for the industry. By working in groups on ECOPRODIGI’s three industry cases (digital performance monitoring, optimising cargo stowage, and optimising shipyard processes), the participants of the workshop discussed the various ways the industry is likely to develop and what kinds of developments are likely to impact the progress in digitalisation. The participants also looked back on the evolution of the maritime industry as well as tried to visualise different future scenarios and the context in which they could take place. The outcome of the Foresight workshops will be a digitalisation roadmap for increasing eco-efficiency in the Baltic Sea region which will be disseminated to the various maritime sector stakeholders.

Navigating towards 2030 –seminar

On Thursday, the 21st of November, it was time for ECOPRODIGI’s third policy event of the year. The seminar “Navigating towards 2030. How to take the digital route to environmentally and economically sustainable maritime industry?” focused on the ambitious targets set for the maritime industry to reduce the harmful environmental impacts of shipping and on the ways digital solutions, cross-sectoral collaboration and transnational networks can help the industry to reach the targets.The seminar featured interesting keynote speeches, a lively panel discussion and presentations of the progress made in ECOPRODIGI’s industry cases.

In his keynote presentation, Dr. Lau Øfjord Blaxekjær (Special Adviser, Blue Growth and Maritime Policy, Danish Maritime Authority) discussed the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) strategies and measures to reduce and ultimately phase out greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from international shipping. Dr. Blaxekjær also talked about the proposal to develop a mandatory operational goal-based short-term measure through IMO’s Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP)  and the ways this can provide a good framework to allow for digital solutions and transnational networks to play a stronger role in the decarbonisation of international shipping.

According to Dr. Blaxekjær, digital solutions offer huge potential for the shipping sector in terms of monitoring, data and information systems, communication, systems integration, and many operational improvements which lead to energy efficiency. However, a strong focus on research, development and demonstration is crucial to ensure that such solutions become available and are adopted by the industry. Dr. Blaxekjær noted that transnational networks are very useful in bringing in and connecting digital innovations and start-ups with the established industry, increasing public and political attention to the challenges of climate change, and facilitating knowledge-sharing and communication which are the keys to success.

Dr. Lau Øfjord Blaxekjær giving his keynote speech.

Dr. Christopher Saarnak explaining the work done in EfficienSea2 project.

The second keynote speaker Dr. Christopher Saarnak (Senior Adviser, Business Intelligence and Development, Danish Maritime Authority) gave an intriguing presentation about the work done in EfficienSea2 project which has created and implemented innovative and smart solutions for efficient, safe and sustainable traffic at sea through improved connectivity for ships. Information exchange between ships and shore is often handled with old technologies and non-standardised solutions which makes it unstable, inefficient and costly. EfficienSea2 project has developed solutions that are the prerequisites for taking e-Navigation from testbeds to real-life implementation. As explained by Dr. Saarnak, e-Navigation is not only about clever routes and avoiding accidents at sea, it is mainly about making sure that digital solutions on board and ashore are harmonised and based on common standards. Through transnational collaboration, use of open-source software and an explicit aim for standardised solutions, EfficienSea2 has paved the way for a global roll-out of e-Navigation. The solutions developed in the project have already reached countries such as Ghana which is outside the project consortium but is currently in the process of implementing e-Navigation system with the help of Danish expertise.

Panel discussion moderator René Taudal Poulsen with panellists Oscar Ohde, Lau Øfjord Blaxekjær, Sverre Patursson Vange, Jonas S. Frederiksen and Christopher Saarnak.

A panel discussion moderated by Dr. René Taudal Poulsen (Associate Professor, Copenhagen Business School – Department of Strategy and Innovation) brought together panellists from both the private and the public sector to discuss digitalisation of maritime industry and the ways to reach the ambitious targets set for the industry. The panellists Dr. Lau Øfjord Blaxekjær (Special Advisor, Danish Maritime Authority), Oscar Ohde (Senior Director, Head of Product Development, Ocean at A.P. Moller – Maersk), Christopher Saarnak (Senior Advisor, Business Intelligence and Development, Danish Maritime Authority), Sverre Patursson Vange (Head of Performance Management, J. Lauritzen A/S) and Jonas S. Frederiksen (Head of Performance Management, GreenSteam) all approached the topic from slightly different backgrounds and standpoints which provided a fertile ground for discussion.

The panellists were largely of the opinion that digitalisation and data collection provide numerous possibilities to predict and improve vessel performance. Furthermore, performance optimisation provides strong commercial interest for companies to get involved. Many digital solutions are already available, however, standardisation processes, transparency and collaboration are needed and should be pushed further at the IMO level to ensure better consistency and compliance. It was also noted that regulatory measures, such as the sulphur gap, are a way to set a level playing field for all and to encourage the uptake of new technologies but the purpose of the regulations should not be to punish those that already do well. For this reason, getting accurate information on what kind of measures are needed, and setting the right kind of targets and monitoring systems is important. Many of the panellists were also of the opinion that in order to actually steer the course towards decarbonisation, a change of paradigm and operational models is needed. This means that shipping companies need to go significantly beyond what is required of them. Focusing solely on operational efficiency may not be enough. Digital tools will provide some solutions but alternative fuels are also needed for decarbonisation.

The closing keynote of the seminar was delivered by Dr. Harilaos N. Psaraftis (Professor, Department of Technology, Management and Economics, Technical University of Denmark). He treated the audience with his thoughts on issues such as the recent regulatory developments at the IMO and the EU, digitalisation, alternative fuels, speed limits and speed optimisation, as well as the role of market-based measures in guiding the industry towards a more sustainable future.

Professor Harilaos N. Psaraftis closing the seminar with his take on the developments in shipping.

The discussions of the seminar day emphasised the point that maritime industry is under growing pressure to reduce costs, improve efficiency and comply with stricter environmental regulations. Given the limited time-frame for achieving the targets set as well as the age of most shipping fleets,  to say that the industry is in a hurry is an understatement.  It seems clear that if the maritime industry is committed to reaching the targets to reduce GHG emissions and to generally eliminate the harmful impacts of shipping on the environment, digital tools and solutions can provide tremendous advantages, especially in terms of operational efficiency. However, as was mentioned by nearly all the speakers of the seminar, standardisation, transparency and transnational cooperation are needed to speed up deployment as well as to ensure compliance and to establish a level playing field for all. In addition to regulatory measures, incentives are needed to encourage the uptake of new technologies and alternative solutions. Ultimately, when it comes to the environmental challenges in shipping, the message that should be communicated loud and clear globally is that the costs of inaction will greater than the costs of action.