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Diversity has ‘gone too far’, argues Tor Olav Trøim

Mauritania gas project has more ESG benefits than a transgender board member, argues Golar LNG and Himalaya Shipping founder in a controversial take on diversity and inclusion standards in shipping

Norwegian entrepreneur and former sidekick to shipping billionaire John Fredriksen takes aim at a tick-box diversity culture that he says indicates there should be a transgender or gay person on his board

TOR OLAV Trøim said that Golar LNG’s involvement in a gas project in Mauritania would benefit more people than having a transgender person on the board of one of his companies.

The serial Norwegian shipping entrepreneur’s rebuke to diversity and inclusion policies in shipping was made during a “Captains of Industry” talk at Marine Money in New York on Wednesday.

The friendly, onstage interview that lasted 30 minutes was conducted by Michael Tusiani, chairman emeritus of New York shipbroker Poten & Partners before a crowded room of the world’s leading shipowners, financiers, lawyers and bankers.

Asked whether the industry was placing the correct emphasis in the right area as the world juggled affordability, sustainability and reliability in the energy sector he responded that “things have gone a bit too far when you have to fill in this form, you have to have a transgender on the board, you have to have a gay on the board”.

“I’m sorry, I respect diversity and things like that,” he said before adding that one of the biggest problems in the world was that oil majors had “grabbed all the reserves” of oil, coal and natural gas on the African continent.

The benefits of having a transgender on the board were “pretty small” compared with being able to change the lives of people in Africa and particularly Mauritania, where a Golar LNG project was underway, he said.

The project would “do a lot more good in the world” than having a more diverse board with a transgender person, according to Trøim.

The 60-year-old was referring to the Greater Tortue Ahmeyim liquefied natural gas project which will begin off the coast of Mauritania and Senegal.

He is chairman of Golar LNG, which is supplying a floating storage and production vessel for the BP-managed project.

His comments went unchallenged by Tusiani and the audience, many of whom also laughed when he said he was “not ashamed” for prior comments saying he was “tired as sh*t of environment, social and governance policies”.

The conversation was held less than four hours before a panel debated how shipping could further progress in diversity, equity and inclusion.

Troim also used the opportunity to double down on his long-standing criticism of decarbonisation in addition to other ESG strategies.

“Being carbon-neutral by 2050 just isn’t going to happen,” he said.

The fossil fuel aficionado said carbon capture technology “is probably the best solution to date”, even though he acknowledged the technology remains unproven.

Trøim emphasised that he had “gone to hell and back and created his own destiny” since his 2014 break-up with shipping billionaire John Fredriksen for whom he worked for 19 years.

Billed as a pioneer in the shipping capital markets who had “owned, created and listed and managed more public companies than any other entrepreneur in history” Trøim backed newly listed dry bulk company Himalaya Shipping and jack-up company Borr Drilling.

The revelation he was returning to the tanker sector via an order for two very large crude carriers to be delivered in 2026 garnered more attention than his comments about transgender people on boards.

“We have decided to go and get our feet a little bit wet,” he said about the order.

“After 15 years of bearishness, I’m getting bullish.”

Speakers at the ESG panel at Marine Money that came after Trøim focused on how to use diversity to attract and retain the most talented employees.

Achieving alignment in diversity policies “needed buy-in from the very top” said Diana Codispoti, the director of human rights for Position Green, an ESG software provider.

Diversity of experience, education and skill sets was important for an industry racing towards decarbonisation and digitalisation, said Christina Liviakis Gianopulos, US president of Women in Shipping and Trading Association, known as Wista.

A 2021 “Women in Maritime” survey found that women comprised 2% of seafarers, 34% of workforce in shipowning companies, with nearly half of those in administrative and support roles.

Of the 500 companies that responded to the survey, 129 did not have a policy for gender equality in recruitment and promotion, and 59 had no quantitative measures for increasing diversity.

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