Friday, 26 September 2014


The thing about physics is you can ‘believe’ in it or not, it doesn’t matter. If you don’t believe in gravity apples will still drop off the tree onto your head in the autumn. So it is with climate change. We can grip on to ‘the uncertainty of the science’ but the uncertainty is mostly about how bad the impacts will be. NASA reports there is a 97% consensus across the scientific community that climate warming trends are ‘very likely’ due to human activities. A joint statement from 18 US scientific associations reads: "Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver."

This last weekend across the world people rallied in support of change in our approach to climate change. Joining A list Hollywood stars and global rock legends were Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary General and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. They, and thousands of other ordinary people young and old, gathered to support global leaders meeting in New York at a UN hosted summit designed specifically to stimulate action to address climate change. 

B9 at the Peoples Climate March

Maersk’s CEO of ‘Shipping and other Services’ Morten Englestoft has been appointed to a high level UN committee whose aim is to reduce emissions, particulate matter (PM) and Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) at all global, national, local and sector levels to promote sustainable transport systems.

Reducing emissions across the entire transport sector is challenging. An interconnected system such as transport interfaces with different modes at different point because of variable stimuli. Moving one part of the system impacts another unintentionally. For example, in introducing Emission Control Areas and thereby increasing the cost of shipping there’s a real risk of driving freight onto roads which is inherently less efficient and more polluting.

Shifting whole systems is a significant challenge which is why consensus is critical. That consensus is building with the large players in the shipping world participating in driving change. How we can effect change amongst smaller operations is less easy to envisage but to avoid being swept along on a tide of other businesses agenda it’s probably worth paying attention to the various technological, operational and systems opportunities available to improve efficiency. Before it becomes mandatory.

Thursday, 18 September 2014


B9 Shipping is really pleased to have been selected as a finalist in the prestigious Ship Efficiency ‘One to Watch’ category.

The Ship Efficiency Awards 2014, hosted by Lloyd’s Register and organised by Fathom, recognises and celebrates the organisations and individuals within the maritime sector that excel in efficient operations, implement fresh thinking, offer proven efficiency benefits and technological innovation.

The Director of Fathom, Alison Jarabo, said there had been a large number of applications for awards and the distinguished panel of judges had had a hard time selecting finalists. Which makes us especially proud to have been recognised.

The B9 Shipping project addresses the operational challenges for small ships by creating A WHOLE SYSTEM SOLUTION that is commercially irresistible to cargo owners by being both cleaner and cheaper. The sailing hybrid ships aim to be 100% renewable powered and zero waste.

We are up against some pretty daunting opposition and simply to be alongside the likes of Wartsila, an EU funded sea traffic control system (which we applaud loudly as a great efficiency tool), Captain Cousteau’s Turbosail, and the very creative and determined Greg Atkinson’s great Eco-Marine Power project Aquarius is testimony in itself to the progress we’ve made in bringing the B9 Shipping project closer to fruition.

Of course, I want B9 to win, but if we don’t we’re proud to be in such good company.

The Awards Ceremony is Oct 2 with a drinks reception that begins at 3pm! If you don’t hear the result from me via twitter or other social media you can expect I’m taking advantage of the bar, for one reason or another.

May the best ship win!

Friday, 5 September 2014


The holidays are over, some of us went sailing. 

When we set sail we know where we want to go, we want to go there - wherever ‘there’ is - the finish line, the good restaurant - it depends on what kind of sailor you are. To get there we are constantly responding to external changes, seeking to achieve optimum performance by balancing multiple variables - adjusting sails to capture wind coming at us from shifting directions at different speeds, we’re trimming and balancing the vessel, avoiding sideways drift, always mindful of tides and currents, safety procedures and rules of the sea.

We are responsive, adaptive to shifting realities whilst remaining clearly goal focussed. We expect, and are prepared for, change and uncertainty.

In today’s volatile world this approach is a valuable guiding principle. We know we need to achieve cost certainty and low emission shipping. We need to get over ‘there’. We know we need to build ships that will be viable in 30 years or more time and yet we don’t know what will happen to trade patterns, to oil prices, labour and emission regulations.

We can be certain of one thing only - things will change.

We’ve become accustomed to deploying cheap fossil fuels to drive a predetermined linear course to the future but both price volatility and emission regulation mean that this era is drawing to a close. The future is no longer as certain - global conflict, climate change, population growth, changing and burgeoning consumer demand and scarce resources all leads to economic, and environmental, volatility.

As every good racing sailor knows stormy weather provides the best opportunity to steal the lead. In the commercial storm we face we must learn how to adapt and respond to keep ahead of the fleet.

The one thing every sailor can be certain about is: there will always be wind. Today, tomorrow, 30 years hence. It may blow from different directions, with different strengths and speeds but we can harness it. To make up any propulsion shortfall we can augment that power with other renewable fuels - maybe bio-diesel, maybe bio-gas, solar possibly. There are a whole host of other complementary technologies available to minimise fuel use - hull coatings, large area propellers, smart routing systems for instance.

Allowing the complexity and myriad of decisions we have to make to paralyse us means we never set sail. Expecting things to ‘get back to normal’, believing in a ‘recovery’ is a denial that should be left on the shore.

The question isn’t - should we act? It’s - how best can we respond to these inevitable changes? Our responses will dictate who crosses the line first - or who bags the table with the best view.