WOC Offers Strength in Diversity to Tackle Ocean Sustainability

Get to know Paul Holthus of the World Ocean Councel who will be moderating webinar “Growing a Sustainable Future” at the end of this month.

At the end of this month, we will host the Breakbulk Europe Digital Special, a series of three webinars plus a special edition of the BreakbulkONE Show. Here Breakbulk’s Marketing and Media Director, Leslie Meredith, talks to Paul Holthus, founding president and CEO of the World Ocean Council. Based in Hawaii, Paul will be our moderator for “Growing a Sustainable Future” that will take place on Wednesday, the 30th of September. In the meantime, we learn more about the WOC priorities and what this organization offers to those involved in the maritime sector. Watch the video below or read these highlights.

The World Ocean Council is a unique global business organization, known as the Global Blue Economy Business and Investment Organization. It brings together all the different ocean-related industries—shipping, fishing, oil and gas, offshore renewables, ports, aquaculture, and others, as well as the investment community around the needs and opportunities of sustainable development.

What are your most important sustainability issues today?

Well, there are quite a few because the ocean is under a lot of pressure. There’re pollution issues from all of the different sectors that operate in the ocean and there are broader pressures from climate change. Global warming is heating up the ocean and increasing ocean acidification.

There's a range of opportunities for industries to tackle these types of issues as one. For instance, if we look at the different pollution issues, such as the typical sort of marine pollution from the kinds of water pollution that enters the ocean from vessels and offshore energy operations, one of the biggest issues on people's minds these days is plastics and what's called marine debris or marine litter.

Marine debris has a lot to do with packaging and materials that get on board vessels or get brought down to the ports. Much of that enters the ocean from the land as well. There’re also issues related to dealing with the adaptation of ports and coastal infrastructure to the impacts of hurricanes and sea level rise that are creating a challenge for industry. So, a whole range of issues cut across the various sectors. That's the space that we operate in: bringing the different industries together to see what sort of synergies and economies of scale that create business value can be developed between them.

What is your view around IMO2020 compliance and the goals that are further in 2050. Do these regulations go far enough?

This is a good example of how the maritime transport industry can work together with governments and through the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to take on an issue that's been identified as a problem in terms of emissions of sulfur and nitrous oxide. Through consultation, good science and risk-based information, groups can work together toward data-driven decision making. There are technological solutions and there are economic implications to those solutions. But let's figure out a reasonable way forward.

I think that whole process has worked pretty well under the IMO2020 regulations. The industry has really stepped up to develop, deliver and deploy the solutions. So that's moving in the right direction. Coupled with the emission control areas that have even tighter restrictions, the industry and governments have worked together well to develop and apply the solutions.

Moving forward to 2050 and the goals and targets for shipping, these are very ambitious, but extremely necessary. There’s a lot of leadership companies that are moving forward very well and tackling this. And this is what we're all about, bringing together leaders to collaborate and solve these problems.

Companies that are ready to identify the challenges and get to work on them with like-minded peers can help lead the way and achieve the business value and benefits that leadership brings.

Have you seen an impact on WOC priorities or new concerns that have arisen because of the COVID crisis?

The crew change situation and its incredible human impact on the men and women serving as seafarers who cannot move off vessels and get home to their families is certainly a new priority. We do a lot of communicating around this issue. Our society wants energy. It wants cheap marine transport and products that can be affordable around the world.

This is an essential underpinning of the global economy. This all depends on the men and women working in difficult and often dangerous jobs. There's always a real need to be aware of that human side of the global ocean economy, but he pandemic has brought it to a whole new level. So for me, the global crew problem is one of the most important issue facing maritime industries.

[Watch the BreakbulkONE Show: Call for Action Around Plight of the Seafarers]

Other pandemic-related issues are the increase in pollution from masks and medical debris, along with small scale fisheries where the fisherfolk are not able to operate because they don't have access to the protective equipment.

Within the breakbulk and project cargo community, we have many different carriers, as well as ports, terminals and other companies that operate in marine-related sector. How can these companies benefit from your organization?

The WOC brings together our world’s diverse global ocean business community who operate on and depend on activities in, around and on the ocean. The benefit to this leadership collaboration is helping identify and tackle the cross-cutting issues that affect everyone. As regulations get developed, they affect the reputational value of companies as in the case of pollution incidents.

So to be able to work together on best practices, achieve the economies of scale of working with a lot of other companies and engage with the science community to ensure we've got good data-driven and risk-assessment-driven responses, moves forward the agenda in a leadership way rather than being in a reactive when regulation or a pressure group is coming at you. Alone, you're having to react to get out in front on these issues without your colleagues and peers from like-minded companies.

Further, there's operational value in being out in front defining and deploying best practices before they become requirements. Finally, there's a reputational value of being out in front and showing that you are a good corporate citizen

How does a company join the WOC?

The WOC has five categories based on the size of companies from the very large to the small business with tiered contributions from members. We also bring in other funds from public foundations to work on these issues. We're getting a multiplier effect from the contributions that industry makes to the World Ocean Council's members and bringing other sources of support to work on issues together.

For more information about the World Ocean Council, visit oceancouncil.org and be sure to register for the free webinar for “Growing a Sustainable Future”.

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