The news that Euronav chief executive Paddy Rodgers is stepping down is indicative of the changeover of generations in tanker shipping
The last seven days have seen a generational change in the tanker sector. The latest generation stepped forward with their view of the tanker fleet of the future with the news that Japanese companies Asahi Tanker Co Ltd and Exeno-Yamamizu Corporation Tokyo are jointly developing a new domestic shipping pure-electric tanker design 'e5' which incorporates “zero emission electric propulsion”. My email exchange with the developers at Exeno-Yamamizu in Japan revealed an earnest attempt to not only change the physical environment their generation will have, but also the attitude of their generation to shipping. In Japan, it would seem the young regard shipping an old persons’ career.
As a result, the domestic tanker trades, vital for bunker delivery and coastal product distribution, are in crisis. The average age of domestic tanker crews is now around 55 years old. This is despite the years of high youth unemployment Japan has suffered. The developers at Exeno-Yamamizu believe that as well as lowering emissions among the bunker delivery fleet in Tokyo Bay, the pure-electric tankers will encourage the ‘PlayStation’ generation to consider crewing as an employment option.
I heard something similar only two months ago in Finland while visiting Rolls-Royce and Finferries and the sailing of the world’s first autonomous ship. Using the cutting edge of digitalisation from Rolls-Royce’s intelligent shipping portfolio, the vessel sailed autonomously around other ships straying across the route. I felt completely safe, as I do on airliners that use automatic landing systems.
The comment that echoes the aims of Exeno-Yamamizu developers came from the captain that remotely sailed the vessel back to port from an office 50 km away. He said that at the end of the shift, he could leave the office and be home in 10 minutes. That sort of normal working life appeals to the PlayStation generation and with digitalisation and forethought, we can engage the younger generation in the tanker industry.
There was shock news from the older tanker generation in the announcement that Euronav chief executive Paddy Rodgers is stepping down. I for one did not see this coming and his well-argued and forthright views in interviews and conferences will be missed. He was the Euronav chief executive during last major upheaval in the tanker fleet – the phase of the single-hull tanker. Hopefully, his plans include being available to add his experience to the next major upheaval in 2020.
Are electric tankers and autonomous ships the way to attract the next generation? Have your say during the digitalisation session at the Asian Tanker Conference in Singapore on 26 and 27 February.