SSA chose to be part of the solution

 – it has strengthened shipping in Sweden

“Research and innovation are essential for high-quality, safe and environmentally-efficient shipping,” says Pia Berglund, CEO of the Swedish Shipowners’ Association (SSA).

The Zero Vision Tool platform provides resources and project management for shipping companies active in the industry projects. This is particularly important for small and medium-sized shipping companies which do not have their own technical departments. Risks and the available knowledge are shared; and on top of that, they get support from the EU to develop new technology.

“ZVT is good for our members, not just for the obvious reason that it allows them to apply for EU funding, but also in that it gives us the strength we need to do this together, with the entire industry. You don’t have to innovate all on your own. You can share knowledge and work together, and in this way successfully meet the challenge of the zero vision. It’s really fantastic! I have actually been positively surprised by how the platform contributes to achieving the zero vision,” says Pia Berglund.

“It’s taken time to get where we are today, but we’re now starting to cascade results, and this helps underscore our successes and show just what a fantastic tool ZVT is.”

The sulphur issue is just the start

She believes a likely reason for the Zero Vision Tool’s strength is that the platform was developed by those who chose to get involved and have actually grappled with the challenges which confront us. Other success factors are that the project is extremely specific and results-oriented, and there are clear timeframes. Just at the moment, the participants are working on the sulphur issue, but this is just the start, as there is incredible strength to be found in working together like this.

“ZVT is not a permanent organisation, but an industry-supported co-operation platform which was developed by the Swedish Shipowners’ Association and SSPA over time. It is run by us, we own it and it represents the basis for the future development of Swedish shipping. This results in added value for us as an association and is part of the membership package we offer,” says Pia, adding:

“It’s a unique position for the Swedish Shipowners’ Association to find itself in the driving seat, but this is after all only because it falls to the shipping companies to resolve many of the challenges we face. I am impressed with and proud of the amount of resources that have been invested in this for us to be able to achieve a result. I had heard about ZVT before I took up my post at the Shipowners’ Association, but I had no idea of the scale and how many were involved in the various industry projects (the so-called Joint Industry Project, JIP).”

Swedish shipping is cutting edge

The Swedish Shipowners’ Association also takes part in the reference group, ZVTREF, which adds a further dimension with its brief for indicating potential solutions. It gives the industry a higher profile with decision-makers and shows that Swedish shipping is really cutting edge, indeed more so than the legislation currently in place.

In ZVTREF, where companies, associations, public authorities and Swedish Government Offices are all represented, it becomes abundantly clear which problems the various industry projects have defined, as these issues are highlighted in red in accordance with the traffic light method used. ZVTREF discusses them and reaches agreement as to who is to be responsible for them going forwards. The reference group has also provided the authorities with an incentive to co-operate with each other and agree on who within the system of government is to pick up the ball and get to grips with the issues.

“We believe it’s very important for the future. The traffic light method means that the most important issues are resolved first, and we can move things forward using an orderly system. It’s great to see, for instance, that the Swedish Transport Agency publicly refers to the items they have got through on the list produced in the ZVTREF meetings!”

Greater understanding for the issues in question

But Pia also points out that at least as important as producing solutions is arriving at the insight that we do not yet know what all the issues are. This might for instance be the case with market-oriented issues such as the potential lack of sufficient LNG bunkering stations.

“But we do of course focus on these issues as well, in a way which perhaps was not the case before, as we do it together and in collaboration with other interested parties.”

Within the industry projects, there is a mix of spheres of interest, indicating that there is a broader value chain which is not homogeneous. The port or equipment manufacturer is included in the discussion, and in this way everyone obtains a greater understanding of the issues in question.

Shared knowledge benefits all parties

“It may of course be the case that another party has the solution to one of the challenges, completely unbeknown to itself. This is a new culture for us, this sharing of knowledge, but it is important as it is a way of strengthening each other and sharing our skills and expertise,” says Pia, adding:

“With 1 January 2015 looming, we all work very hard at the moment, not just a lot of talk without any really concrete solutions. It was the sulphur regulations that got this off the ground, but if we are to survive in the long term, we need to increase understanding of shipping and how we can be a part of the solution to environmental challenges in the future.”

There is no limitation in terms of the methods used on the ZVT platform. They could also be used in other contexts, and Pia would be glad to see a project which was not so technology-intensive in the future.

“We need to get to grips with all the questions relating to issues of culture in our industry and financial incentives for change, as well as taking on-board the new way of thinking which we are learning.”

Innovation is a prerequisite for achieving the zero vision

She believes that the fact that the Swedish Shipowners’ Association has become involved and actively helped set up the ZVT co-operation platform is a strength of the association.

“It makes us attractive as an organisation. We notice this when we talk to other countries, but as an association we have to ask ourselves: how comfortable are we with opening ourselves up to new co-operation partners? The results bring us some competitive advantages, and it strengthens the Swedish Shipowners’ Association, but do we want to open ZVT up to more co-operation partners? However, we do believe it can be to our advantage in the long term, particularly in terms of our relationship with the EU, if we appear in a larger arena in the company of other Baltic states.”

“To achieve the zero vision we have set ourselves – of shipping which does not have a negative impact on the atmosphere or the water around us – innovation is needed. The greatest challenge is to create the kind of sustainability which is also economically feasible in terms of competing with others. Safe, high-quality vessels are a prerequisite for this, and the ZVT platform has provided us with an excellent tool,” concludes Pia.