“The future is uncertain…but this uncertainty is at the very heart of human creativity.”

This quote by the Belgian physical chemist and Nobel Laureate Ilya Prigogine is one of the more optimistic visions of how what we do not know or cannot predict could also be a source of inspiration and empowerment. At the moment, the sentiment will surely be meaningless for many. The global situation with the coronavirus and the uncertainties it causes are understandably a source of growing anxiety and concern. It would be both insensitive and offensive to underestimate the toll that the current pandemic is taking on lives and activities around the world. Nevertheless, it has been comforting and inspiring to see how people and professionals from different sectors have been willing and able to step up for the sake of others as well as to adjust their day-to-day activities to the turmoil of these times.

Shipping is one of the sectors on the front line of the coronavirus calamity as professional maritime workers around the world are doing their best to ensure that supplies continue to be transported safely through these uncharted waters. This is not an easy job to do, especially now that travel has been curtailed and many borders have been closed in order to mitigate the impacts of the virus. While the coronavirus outbreak has brought various industries at a standstill, harmed global trade severely and disrupted important supply chains, shipping has continued to play a significant role in trying to keep the ball rolling and ensuring the safety of people around the world. The ability of seafarers and shipping services to deliver vital goods, including medical supplies, foodstuffs and other essential commodities, has been a crucial factor in responding to the global pandemic. At the same time, the health and well-being of the hundreds of thousands of seafarers on ships is a constant worry for many.

As is the case with so many other transnational projects, our work in ECOPRODIGI has not been immune to the changes caused by the virus. Because our partners are now mostly working from home and understandably unable to gain access to vessels or to enter the premises of shipping companies, some activities and pilotings are currently on hold. Many conferences and meetings have either been cancelled or postponed, including our own event “European Green Deal: Setting the Course for Sustainable Maritime Industry” which was supposed to take place in Brussels in early May but has now been postponed for autumn. Luckily, despite the challenging working conditions, our project partners are determined to continue operations and meet objectives the best we can. Cancellation of some activities has freed up extra time to analyse and work on the results we have already gathered. Meetings with partners and stakeholders have been conducted online and work on project outputs such as digitalisation roadmaps has progressed smoothly with the help on digital tools. Plans from A to B are being prepared to make sure that our next synthesis workshop on the pilotings of the three industry cases of the project will be a successful one.

Our Project Manager Milla Harju has been catching up with Partners and remains in good spirits:

“Despite the current challenges, I’m getting messages of active partnerships and solidarity among our partners and wider networks. People are of course preparing for tough times, but in contrary to the physical lockdown we’re going through, I’m seeing a mental opening up and people reaching out to those who’re struggling – both work-wise but also personally. It’s heartwarming and demonstrates once again the importance of digital platforms which are enabling activities and supporting society to cope in many forms during the pandemic.”

So, in spite of the unfortunate situation with the virus and the long-term ramifications it will undoubtedly have, we continue to look forward and hope for the best. We are extremely excited about the work we are doing and the results we are preparing to present at our final conference on the 16th of September in Turku, Finland (save the date!). Having now truly witnessed how crucial shipping is for global well-being and for the functioning of society, we are even more determined to work for the benefit of maritime industry. The future may be uncertain but, on our part, we will try to help make it as bright as possible.