Human element a major factor in helping decarbonization succeed, panel concludes

At Wednesday’s IUMI panel on risk and the human element, moderated by Mikkel Gardner Andersen – Nordic risk manager for Codan, Denmark – moderator, discussion covered a similar theme to the issues raised by Maersk and CMA CGM.

The panel was:

  • Matt Dunlop  Director of sustainability and decarbonisation at V.Group
  • Tim Kent        Lloyd’s Register Technical Adviser
  • Raal Harris    Chief Creative Officer at Ocean Technologies Group
  • Peter Burkal  Business development director OSM Thorne Copenhagen

Andersen noted that it could take time to get the IMO to move on this, and that at the moment the strategy was no more than some dots on a timeline. “Now the challenge is how to get there”.

The panel was discussing just the next seven years, rather than the even vaguer aspirations and targets (two different things in IMO language)

Matt Dunlop said that the targets that had been set had offered no blueprint. He spent his time in thew talk focusing on ammonia, noting that ships had been carrying ammonia for decades, but using it as a fuel would be something new. The risk to crew was greater because ammonia was toxic.

The theme of the panel was a focus on the importance of crew, with 1.9m of them employed in the industry around the world. Peter Burkal said that some good things came out of Covid, in that people began to realize how important crew were. They also realized that learnt that putting too many eggs in one basket (in other words, Philippines-based crew) could be dangerous. Unluckily, the alternatives they landed upon were often Russian and Ukrainian, which generated additional difficulties from February 2022 onwards. The net impact of this, said Burkal, was that thee industry had probably lost 10% of its workforce, at a time when experienced seafarers who could more easily be upskilled to deal with the implications of decarbonization were desperately needed.

However, another plus was that Covid and the Russ-Ukraine war had seen crew managers and ship managers working together for once.

Tim Kent from Lloyd’s Register noted that IACS was working towards single standards, but that for many of these fuels the use of Quantitative Risk Assessment (QRA) did not necessarily take you to the solution.

All of the panel agreed that the new developments, perhaps the most significant to have faced the shipping industry since the changeover from sail to steam, would entail upskilling of crew. And the timetable to 2030 was tight.

Raal Harris said that we needed common standards in place, with everyone suitably trained for handling and bunkering. Safety of fuel and safety as standard. Ge was not optimistic that STCW would get there by 2028.

“If you want ammonia ships on the sea by 2026, that is a great challenge”, Harris said.

Communication and connectivity were emphasized several times. Training up crew is not a simple matter. They are on the move. Even getting a USB stick to a ship can be difficult, and the USB updates more often than not only arrive once a year.

“You have to get a physical piece of material somewhere, and then get it back again”, said Harris, referring to training certificates, the possession of which (genuine ones) would be both necessary and logistically hard to manage.\

Peter Burkal said there was a massive need for cooperation and collaboration, given the tight timescale, while Andersen said that we could not wait for legislation because it was too slow.

Matt Dunlop observed that tanker crews were well trained and could be upscaled, but the challenge for bulk carriers and containers was too low. “This is the biggest transformation that the industry has ever seen.”, he said.