Q+A with John Erik Hagen

  1. Your new book, Sustainable Power, Autonomous Ships and Cleaner Energies for Future Shipping, has just been published by Artech House, what was the original motivation for writing a book on this topic?


Based on my international experience, and especially at IMO, I have for a long time seen that more and more focus has been on sustainability and cleaner environment issues. Increased awareness of sustainability issues from governments, international organizations, financial institutions, investors and consumers affects the maritime sector and is a key driver for more sustainable shipping and port operations. With public demands for urgent measures to deal with climate change and environmental sustainability, the maritime industry itself, including investors, insurance companies and banks, is increasingly taking the initiative itself. Maritime industry is in most everything connected to the sea or waterways throughout the world, connecting the global trade, especially in relation to navigation, shipping and marine engineering. With a focus on electric and autonomous ships, the motivation was to introduce sustainable transport concepts and technologies that can increase efficiency while reducing pollution and operating costs in shipping, in addition to developing new business opportunities. This includes various sustainable energies and power for propulsion, as well as land-based initiatives that reduce greenhouse gas reduction in the shipping ecosystem, including ports’ initiatives. The book points out how digitalization plays a crucial role in the future of sustainable ship and port operations. Energy solutions that enable future digital and automated concepts for safe, secure and cost-effective sustainable shipping are discussed, as well as the concept of autonomous ships as an important prospect on the horizon.


  1. What industries do you hope the development of sustainable shipping will benefit the most? And where in the progression/development of autonomous ships do you see the world being in the near future (10 years)?


The broad global focus and political will is likely to result in a broad shift in future business focus. Increasing demand for sustainable environmentally friendly solutions will change the rules for industrial development. Sustainable solutions affect the entire industrial maritime sector. Those who are willing to invest in fleet modernization and greener technology may over time become more competitive due to increased fuel and operational efficiency and the ability to benefit from sustainable financing initiatives. The trend is that those who do not take sustainability seriously will be faced with increased fees, poorer financial opportunities, and in the worst case, lose significant market share.


Although we have not yet seen fully autonomous ships operating on an international scale with an international legal framework, there are now a number of projects under development, especially in the short sea shipping sector. Most of the technology is already available, and new solutions will occur around the next corner. The regulatory bodies are catching up and we are beginning, in addition to the ongoing work of the IMO, to see national legislators adopt legislation to cover the development of autonomous ships, including change and awareness raising to underpin the principles of design, production and operation of autonomous vessels. Technological advances in electrically autonomous shipping will be an important contribution of decarbonization of shipping. Although autonomous vessels have been on the agenda for some time, further development is still needed, and the IMO is unlikely to adapt its regulations for international autonomous shipping until around 2030 at the earliest. In the near future, electric autonomous ships are currently expected to be under coastal or flag state guidance, adapted to reduced operating costs and reduced CO2, SOx and NOx emissions. Potential business models are underway, and manufacturers will continue to try different business models. It already looks like the new job profile of the seafarer’s competence, whether they are on board or on land, will require technological training on automation and digitization. The lack of sufficient port infrastructure and autonomous logistics in ports requires investments in smart infrastructure and digitization of port facilities and landside operations. There are still challenges related to Cyber ​​Security and these pose a real threat to autonomous vessels where cyber piracy and dangers can constitute possible unauthorized access to remote control systems and attacks can disrupt the operation of a vessel itself.


3.Do you think the same principles can be applied to other industries, such as the travel/holiday industry and how?


Absolutey. Fully autonomous electric vessels in local waters are on the way to carry out tasks including transporting passengers for activities such as sightseeing and transport service from one place to another in cities. In general, such all-electric boats embody the beginning of a more sustainable maritime tradition as an important contribution to a sustainable future. I also think that the maritime industry can learn from other transport forms and vice versa.


4.What level of education/engineering practice is the reader expected to have and what industries will it be the most useful for?


This book will help readers gain true insight and guidance to the overall concept of existing and future sustainable maritime electrification use cases, technologies, and business models, with an overview of sustainable energy resources, even if the reader does not have technical training. The book is written on the basis of readers who are interested in sustainable challenges and solutions, and who are interested in the future of our planet. Within the industry, many types of different companies recognize that by addressing environmentally and sustainable problems, they can achieve better growth and cost savings, improve brand and reputation, strengthen relationships, and increase the bottom line.


5.How was the writing process? Do you write your chapters in order or do you have a specific process? If so, what is your process?


It’s exciting to write a book. There is a lot of research work behind the writing, and I spend some time reading about actual and current issues in many areas. I combine this with my own knowledge and expertise, and I feel that the combination turns out to be very effective. Yes, I write the chapters in logical order. The first chapter of the book gives the reader overall overviews and shows how overarching issues are interrelated. In the further work, the content of a section in one chapter of the book is often used as a reference in another chapter. In the final chapter, I discuss thoughts about the future and the way forward. Before I begin the actual writing of the book, I set up a rather detailed outline. The book publisher has very skilled consultants who provide inputs and comments both in the preparation of the book and while I write each of the chapters.


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