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Climate summit showed shipping is ready to make changes, says BV chief

There was a consensus for change at COP26, with greater emphasis on ‘when’ it can be achieved rather than ‘how’, says Matthieu de Tugny

BV will this week set out a road map for growth and development for 2022-25. The lessons learned from COP26 will feature strongly in future planning

THE shipping industry has this month shown a commitment to undertaking concerted climate action, according to Bureau Veritas Marine & Offshore executive vice-president Matthieu de Tugny.

From the Global Maritime Forum in London to the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, there has been a “notable shift” in discussions from “how” it can be achieved to “when”.

“It was apparent that the maritime sector is ready — not only from a technological perspective — to make the changes necessary to meet climate targets,” de Tugny wrote after the summit closed.

He applauded the role of maritime innovators in leading the industry towards low and zero-carbon technologies, and urged governments and maritime organisations to create “clear and comprehensive” legislation to generate the support and incentives needed to make headway in the energy transition.

Mr de Tugny saw a positive response at the summit from governments, 22 of which signed the Clydebank Declaration committing to creating new green corridors through key deepsea routes.

“This will sustainably link the world’s largest ports by 2030… change is definitely in the air,” he said.

The issues of infrastructure to enable this change and carbon capture for parts of the industry that will remain energy-intensive must be addressed. Above all, he added, the industry must be transparent in how it is working to achieve its goals.

“Transparency will help us share the data to accurately track our progress, manage our shortcomings and build trust across the industry,” he added.

Paris-headquartered Bureau Veritas Group holds its Investor Day on December 3 to debate and agree the roadmap for the period between 2022 and 2025.

Mr de Tugny would not be drawn on the direction this road would take, other than to confirm that both decarbonisation and digitalisation would feature strongly.

“Shipping’s transformation will be reflected in capital investment for acquisitions, and the development in new rules and regulations for next four years. There will be new solutions and services. That’s all I can say,” he told Lloyd’s List.

It is likely there will be more interaction between BV’s Marine & Offshore division and other divisions in the group to encourage engagement between the teams. Further, there will be an examination of the group’s ESG progress.

There is no doubt the year 2021 has been more positive for BV than 2020.

The return of face-to-face meetings with clients and other stakeholders, investment in remote survey centres, new technologies coming onstream, and encouraging development in the sectors of cruise, container and offshore — mainly wind farm supply and maintenance vessels — have all combined to keep the society very active.

“There has been a shift towards technology, with shorter-term wins,” he said. “All class societies are committed to investigate and develop new rules to mitigate the risk of such technologies.

“This is why ‘transition’ is very important: we have learnt a lot about fuels of the future. It’s a learning curve for the future of shipping.”

He acknowledges that BV has picked up a great deal about the technical feasibility of using liquefied natural gas as a fuel on board ships.

A 24,000 teu containership delivered last year to CMA CGM had a prototype main engine on board, he said. For all the testing in the factory and on the quayside, it is not until the engine is running on board ship in real conditions that the learning can begin.

“We are bringing expertise to the market. It’s important to build on that so we can find future solutions for ammonia and hydrogen. It’s a key step.”

Mr de Tugny recognises that LNG as a transitional energy remains a fossil fuel, however he said that there is now more confidence in LNG fuel solutions, and it’s taking a significant share of the orderbook. The statistics speak for themselves.

“My position is this: we can’t do nothing. It’s better to incrementally change the systems as the years go on. Whatever the solution, our job is to develop rules and regulations, to push to a certain extent the evolution of the regulations worldwide and bring the solution to market.”

BV is keenly aware that future success must begin by attracting and retaining the right talent. This involves planning for tasks and responsibilities beyond the traditional marine engineers and naval architects. The society is now recruiting cyber experts and chemists, among others.

“It’s my responsibility to make sure people management comes at the top of our 2025 plan.”

Not only is the message going out to universities to bring talent in, but there is also a push to retain talent through the promotion of a better workplace, employee wellbeing, gender equality and decent remuneration.

“We are indicating to newcomers that BV is working for a better environment. We are focusing on our business practices, on training, on our code of ethics and discipline. It’s an HR road map both for external and internal consumption. Probably,” he reflected, “it’s the first time we have done it with such force.”

Mr de Tugny said Glasgow was a good opportunity to meet clients and industry stakeholders, and gain insight into shipping’s views about climate change.

“There are different opinions about the outcome of COP26,” he said. “As far as shipping is concerned, it was valuable for us to determine the next steps. There was a good awareness and a consensus to reach net zero in 2050. That consensus must now accelerate the pace of change.”

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