A Deep Dive Into Ship Management and Decarbonization at Wilhelmsen


Published Dec 12, 2023 2:44 PM by Wilhelmsen Ship Management


Wilhelmsen's CEO & President, Carl Schou, believes there are great opportunities for ship managers ahead. In a recent interview with Naftemporiki, one of Greece's business news publications, he discusses the significant challenges faced by the maritime industry today.

What exactly is the role and responsibilities of a third-party management company when taking over a shipowner's fleet?

When a third-party management company takes over the management of a shipowner's fleet, its primary goal is to ensure the efficient and safe operation of the vessels. In Wilhelmsen, we categorize it into four main elements, which are crewing, technical, emissions and OPEX management. It is the responsibility of the ship manager to recruit competent crew to operate the vessel. To manage the vessel, the ship manager implements their systems and processes onboard. These systems and processes are developed to ensure the safety of the crew and maximize the operational reliability of the vessel.

In the new era of emission consciousness, the ship manager is responsible for monitoring the emissions and optimizing operations to minimize emissions. These three elements collectively influence the vessel's operational expenses. Therefore, by adeptly managing all three facets, the ship manager achieves optimized operational expenses. Striking a good balance among these four elements represents the art of ship management and sets one ship manager apart from another.

Shipping analysts predict that third-party management will enhance its presence in the Greek shipping market. Do you agree? What are the prospects of companies like yours in the future?

Yes, I agree. There are more opportunities and prospects now compared to 5 years ago. The barriers for managing ships have increased due to the increased regulatory regimes. For some ship owners to remain competitive, they must seek out reliable ship managers that have established systems and processes that can manage their vessels in compliance with all regulations and cost-efficiently.  Ship managers can provide access to economies of scale in bulk purchases thereby allowing ship owners to reduce their operating expenses considerably. When it comes to how an owner selects the correct manager, we believe it comes down to the owner’s profile. We are ship managers with a proven track record.

For 48 years, we have been consistently delivering our services to the shipping community under the steadfast ownership of the Wilhelmsen group. With over 160 years of maritime history, the Wilhelmsen group's evolution from ship owners to one of the world's largest maritime networks has paved a solid foundation of values that emphasizes on doing things the right way and a strong people culture in the organization.

Our identity is defined by performance-driven people who value relationships and tradition, at the same time being ambitious in our goals. We are confident that we can attract Greek ship owners who resonate with our philosophy and are looking for a trusted partner to navigate the complexities of modern ship management.

What are Wilhelmsen’s suggestions with regards to decarbonization? Zero-carbon fuels will probably not be viable for some years. How can shipping companies reduce their fleets’ emissions amid a stringent regulatory enviromenment?

Our projection is that by 2030, approx. 70% of the fleet will still be on conventional fuel while 20% will be using LNG as fuel. The remaining 10% of the fleet will be running on other alternative fuels such as ammonia and methanol. We are focusing on incremental changes that can be made to support our owner’s goal to reduce emissions. One key enabler is our established digital systems that track and monitor emissions. Our data warehouse enables extensive analysis to be done and have led to the development of leading KPIs that can assist our shore employees and crew onboard to reduce fuel consumption.

Crew competency is also crucial to achieve that. We are developing emission-conscious crew members to equip them with the knowledge and motivation to take initiatives that align with the shipowner's emission reduction objectives. This holistic strategy encompasses technology, data-driven insights, and skilled personnel, positioning your operations for a sustainable and environmentally conscious future.

Given the fact that there is a shortage of qualified officers, do you encounter difficulties when searching for new employees? How does the Russia-Ukraine war affect these efforts?

Seafarer shortages, particularly for officers, has persisted as an industry challenge for many decades. Despite these ongoing shortages, the shipping industry has demonstrated remarkable resilience and adaptability to ensure the continuous operation of vessels, with no reported instances of ships being halted due to crew shortages.

We have been actively recruiting seafarers in the traditional seafaring nations like Philippines and India. However, our core strategy centers on the development of our seafarer pool through our cadetship program. We firmly believe in nurturing and shaping our own pool of seafarers from their cadet phase, as this approach consistently develops officers who possess the competencies and values aligned with our organization's standards. This dual-pronged approach not only addresses immediate staffing needs but also serves as an investment in the long-term sustainability and excellence of our maritime operations.

Wilhelmsen announced recently that Mrs. Rosemelyn De Villa Boongaling took over her first command on AS Patria. How does the company promote diversity practices in the maritime environment?

Mrs Rosemelyn is our 2nd female captain. Our first female captain is Ms Lee Eu Ran who took over her first command in 2022. Both captains began their careers with us as cadets and steadily advanced through the ranks. However, it's important to note that female seafarers represent a small fraction, currently comprising only 1% of our seafaring team.

To enhance gender diversity, we're actively boosting our female representation through our cadetship program. Furthermore, we've established an internal female seafarer support group to foster open discussions concerning challenges faced both onboard and in personal life. We're committed to creating a thriving and inclusive environment for our female seafarers and are proactively exploring ways to achieve this goal.

For more information, please visit www.wilhelmsen.com.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.