Sofia Fürstenberg Stott has been an architect of Nor-Shipping’s evolution to embrace and enable new ocean business opportunities for its core maritime audience. Here she explains how adopting a broader ‘blue’ perspective can help maritime in its quest for both environmental and commercial sustainability.
“These aren’t vague concepts or fashionable ideas anymore, these are tangible, accessible and immensely valuable business opportunities.”
Fürstenberg Stott is smiling, but she’s deadly serious. Sitting at her desk in Copenhagen, but working closely with Nor-Shipping’s core team in Lillestrøm and Oslo, the former Maersk Innovation Manager is addressing the promise (and profit) of a new age of commercial activity in the ocean space.
“Economic value creation from ocean activities will have doubled by 2030, according to the OECD,” she notes, “and forward thinking maritime and business players have already plugged into this potential and are adapting to exploit it.
“It is an evolution,” she stresses. “It is happening… Now! Those that don’t adjust their business models accordingly risk losing competitive advantage. Some may risk their very livelihoods. Our industry can’t afford to be blinkered when it looks to the future. Ambitious companies need to take a broader perspective.”
Fürstenberg Stott is quick to point out that she doesn’t mean, or expect, shipowners to start farming algae, for example, but rather to be aware of how their existing expertise could be harnessed to create new value for stakeholders.
“Look at the growth of the offshore wind industry as a case study,” she comments. “By 2030 Europe is expected to have installed 70 GW of offshore wind, translating to an extra 10,000 turbines in the water. Ports will need to be upgraded to cope with the installation and servicing demand, new construction vessels will enter the market, fresh competencies will be required to manage and optimize portfolios.
“As energy majors, such as Norway’s Equinor, begin transitioning away from fossil fuels they will require teams of service suppliers to tend to their assets. This is a huge opportunity for owners, operators, yards, and equipment suppliers with offshore experience to leverage established expertise and build a sustainable future. For themselves and society. This is good business, in more ways than one.”
Fürstenberg Stott is keen to mention further real-time examples of evolution and opportunity, citing the Yara Birkeland autonomous container ship concept and Wartsila’s recently launched Sea20 project, aimed at helping connect and transform the energy and marine industries to create, in their words, ‘one supremely efficient, ecologically sound, digitally connected and collaborative ecosystem.’
“In an increasingly connected, joined up world, maritime leaders are no longer looking at themselves and their industry in isolation,” she states. “We have to be open to collaboration to prosper. If not new players, with new models from outside the industry will seize on the opportunities that we do not.”
And here in lies the thinking for Nor-Shipping’s new exhibition space for its 2019 programme – the Blue Economy hall.
The concept is Fürstenberg Stott’s brainchild. The Swede, who, thanks in part to an Irish spouse, speaks with an impeccable trans-Atlantic accent, has been with Nor-Shipping for the past two years. She originally joined to project manage Nor-Shipping 2017’s Disruptive Sustainability hall, before masterminding the Opening Oceans Conference in the Danish capital in May 2018 – Nor-Shipping’s first ever activity outside its native Norway. This helped support and enable a strategy that saw the former maritime event week reposition as ‘your arena for ocean solutions’ earlier this year, evolving to help its core customers do the same – taking advantage of new business opportunities in the ocean space.
The launch of the Blue Economy hall fits neatly into this broader drive.
“We’re in the process of creating an intimate and interactive space to highlight, promote and accelerate business practices and players that balance commercial growth with sustainable resource use and environmental protection,” she explains, adding: “This is where our 30,000 plus visitors can experience tomorrow’s business solutions today.”
Fürstenberg Stott believes commercial and environmental sustainability go hand in hand, noting that the ‘greening’ of the industry provides huge business potential (for new technology, practices and partnerships) while without more careful stewardship of the ocean we risk not only commercial sustainability but catastrophic impacts upon society.
“The development of wider activity in the ocean is a necessity,” she says, nodding towards increasing nutritional and energy needs for a growing global population, “but it’s also our greatest challenge – development must be careful, considered and responsible. That, in essence, is what was behind the idea for Blue Economy.”
Fürstenberg Stott developed the idea based on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – Nor-Shipping is a member and champion of the UN Global Compact – in conjunction with a breakthrough 2016 report from DNV GL, Sustainable Development Goals: Exploring Maritime Opportunities. This, she says, will provide structure for the 1300 sq. m space, with five identified areas creating a focus on current challenges and future opportunities. The proposed areas are; sustainable ocean economy, sustainable infrastructure, decarbonisation, protection of ocean life, and the development and implementation of responsible practices.
An invitation to act
“Disruptive Sustainability centred on the possibilities of developing new technology and ways of working to reimagine the maritime sector, to push the boundaries,” she explains. “However, Blue Economy deals more with actionable opportunities – business potential that is waiting to be realised right now. It really distils ideas and concepts to present the audience with an invitation to act – opening a gateway to new business. We think that’s a very exciting step forward.”
As far as exhibitors are concerned, Fürstenberg Stott suggests they’ll be a broad bunch.
“The Blue Economy encompasses many different areas, all of which are connected by a desire for responsible, successful development,” she explains. “Anyone that can contribute to that positive drive, serving and supporting the SDGs, is very welcome. As such we expect exhibitors to range from small innovation led start-ups, to business cluster organisations, venture capitalists, renewable energy firms, those delivering value from data and digital solutions, cyber security specialists, cross industry collaborators, and many more.
“The limits are only set by the imagination and ambition of a fresh breed of businesses, so we think this hall will offer visitors something completely new.”
Fürstenberg Stott is positive when it comes to the future. She has to be, she admits, we all do.
“Inaction and trading on past glories is pointless,” she concludes. “If we don’t evolve we die. That goes for the industry, Nor-Shipping and society itself. The ocean is full of resources but it must be carefully managed. Nor-Shipping is committed to helping its audience unlock value in a sustainable way; enabling collaboration, showcasing people, talent and technology, and supporting our industry in anyway we can.
“I’m looking forward to the next chapter with real anticipation. Who knows what we can achieve when we’re open to change, progress and working together? A new wave of development is on the horizon.”
Nor-Shipping 2019 takes place in Oslo and Lillestrøm, Norway, from 04 to 07 June 2019. Alongside Hall A’s focus on Blue Economy, the other halls will feature: IT & Navigation in Hall B; Safety & Rescue in Hall C; Shipbuilding & Repair in Hall D; Maritime Services & Logistics in Hall E; and Propulsion & Machinery in Hall E.