Ocean Insights with Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen

Welcome to the Ocean Insights series – bite-sized interviews with the thought leaders, innovators and business people seeking to realise the huge potential of the ocean space. This week we’ve spoken to Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen, CEO Maritime at DNV GL.

DNV GL is the world’s leading classification society, providing an innovative portfolio of services to over 11,000 vessels in the global fleet. The maritime business area employs over 3,200 individuals, with a surveyor network offering services from 350 offices in more than 100 countries.

DNV GL is committed to enhancing safety, quality, energy efficiency and the environmental performance of the shipping industry.

Based in Oslo, Norway, Maritime CEO Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen is focused on ensuring his global team help customers meet the demands of a world in flux – satisfying regulations, operating with optimal quality and safety, mitigating risk, and successfully adapting to the challenges and opportunities that await on the industry horizon.

Here he discusses the impact of Coronavirus, the need for enlightenment, and how a breadth of competence can unlock added value for the maritime industry.

Dive in and see what you discover.

What do you see as the greatest opportunity for the ocean industries over the next decade?

The global pandemic has forced us to change routines, perspectives and approaches in the way we work. It has released a wave of creativity and innovation, demonstrating that it is easier to challenge the status quo – to find bold new solutions – than we previously imagined. I think we have a potential to seize on this positivity, to continue building it.
As such, I believe we have an opportunity to usher in a new age of ‘maritime renaissance’, adopting a mindset where we actively work to confront and overcome major industry challenges – harnessing technology, new partnerships and cross discipline collaboration to find new, more sustainable paths forward.
This is an opportunity, but also a requirement. ‘Business as usual’ is no longer good enough.

What do you regard as the greatest challenge?

As an industry, it is decarbonisation. We have ambition, we have targets, but we don’t have the solutions to facilitate them as yet. The ‘renaissance’ can unlock them, but – as they say – perfect is the enemy of good so we also need to accept that we have to act now to start the journey.
That’s why I see gas as the next logical step. It is not carbon neutral, of course, but by adopting it as a fuel we can dramatically cut emissions. In my mind it is better to do this now rather than wait 20 or 30 years for the ideal solution. Gas is a bridging fuel, but that’s a very long bridge when we’re talking about the next one or two vessel generations.

What do you see as the unique strength of your business and how will it help you succeed?

The breadth of competence at DNV GL is a core asset. We have expertise across a huge range of disciplines and industry segments, both in maritime and beyond. That enables knowledge sharing, new perspectives and the ability to work together to tailor new solutions and services for the changing needs of customers and key stakeholders.
As an example, when the Coronoavirus hit and a no sailing order was introduced for cruise in the US we worked with our health division to quickly devise a certification programme to help prevent and control infection risk on cruise vessels. Those experts had already certified some 640 hospitals and medical facilities in the US, and further afield, so had special competency in the area. The ability to draw on those expert resources is invaluable.

What key skills are you looking for in the next generation of industry professionals and how are you working to attract new talent?

In terms of skills it’s a mix of ‘the traditional and the new’. There’s still demand for traditional disciplines like naval architects, mathematicians and engineers, but we also need to mix that with data and computer scientists, for example, to help us deliver maximum value in an increasingly digital industry. By working together, we can increase understanding and unlock new solutions.
In terms of recruitment we’re very fortunate to be such a purpose driven organisation. We safeguard life, property and the environment and – in a work market where people are increasingly looking for employers that share their values and ambitions – that is a strong competitive advantage.

What are you most looking forward to at Nor-Shipping 2021?

Nor-Shipping is, and always has been, a great meeting place for the industry – an arena to bring all ocean space disciplines together, strengthen existing relationships and build new ones. It’s a platform for collaboration and that is key to the future success of the industry. The exhibition itself is excellent – it’s always interesting to see new developments and innovations first-hand – but there’s also real value to be gained from the conferences and speakers. For knowledge sharing and new perspectives it is outstanding.
And of course, there’s always the DNV GL garden party!

What three words sum up your vision for the future?

Scale, innovation, transparency.
All three will be key to building a business, and industry, for the future.

Please note that this article was written before Nor-Shipping 2021 was postponed to 10-13 January 2022.

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