Sea Asia 2021: Peter Björkborg’s views on the technology innovations enabling shipping’s decarbonisation pathway
September 2021

By Peter Björkborg, Manager Sustainability & Transformation, Stena Bulk
September 2021

Earlier this month, I joined Sea Asia’s ‘Technology Innovations for Decarbonisation’ roundtable, where I had the opportunity to engage in a discussion with other technologically and digitally savvy industry peers about some of the key topics that will drive the decarbonisation of our sector. These included CO2 emissions transparency, the digitalisation of the decarbonisation process, AI and data-enabled intelligence, and on-board technologies for energy and operational efficiency.

We kickstarted the discussion by setting the record straight on the concept of ‘decarbonisation technology’. Our view at Stena Bulk is that the industry generally tends to be a little bit too narrow when talking about how technology can enable decarbonisation.

The way I see it, decarbonisation technology can be categorised into three different areas: traditional ship technology (such as hydrodynamics, propellers, engines, fuel cells and wind assistance), operational technology (such as performance monitoring and optimization) and, lastly, commercial technology (such as optimising protocols or avoiding congestion).

We can all see and are excited by traditional clean technologies. And even operational technologies like software platforms are becoming more well understood.

On this point, it is quite clear that shipping needs to decarbonise in the right way and that it will not be able to fully do so without digital technology. During the panel, we touched upon another relevant area which is how genuine value can be extracted from data.

We discussed how that, when it comes to data, we need to ask the right questions and combine data from different sources to gather insights that are of value to the business. We also discussed interoperability and transparency, and that by its very nature the decarbonisation challenge will require shipping companies to share data to a certain extent, for instance to show regulatory compliance or alignment with customer strategies.

At Stena Bulk, we started our data validation journey six years ago by building our own platform for our operations, because there were no existing platforms on the market at the time. Today, there are a range of commercialised software platforms on the market, meaning that companies taking their first steps towards decarbonisation do not need to invest significant financial, time and human resource on developing proprietary technologies.

Now, back to the three technology groups we discussed earlier. It’s the last of these technology groups – commercial technologies - that we collectively talk the least about but that could also have a transformative impact. These kinds of technologies could enable us to look at efficiency beyond the ship level and apply it to whole fleets, effectively smoothing out the supply chain and cutting wasted time – and wasted fuel.

We believe that these technologies will be absolutely crucial for the long-term financial sustainability of the maritime industry, which is just as important as pursuing decarbonisation; after all, we still need to transport goods, so it is right that we find ways to be commercially viable whilst also having minimum impact on the planet.

In all of this, it is important to remember that there are pioneers in our industry that have made substantial progress in technology innovation, and therefore those players that are just starting their decarbonisation journey do not need to start from scratch. As a progressive voice in shipping that takes a pioneering and entrepreneurial approach to innovation, we remain committed to sharing knowledge and communicating to the industry and the world what we’re doing to reduce the emissions of our fleet.

This is the reason why we started to trial biofuels two years ago, and why we proceed similarly with a range of technology solutions across the three groups I outlined earlier.  We want to push ourselves and others, and prove that taking firm, effective steps towards decarbonisation is already possible today.

I always enjoy sitting down among other experts to discuss the issues that are keeping us all up at night, and I will welcome every opportunity to take part in conferences, panels and other events in the future where I can share my insights into the digitalisation and decarbonisation of shipping. Thank you to my co-panellists and the SeaAsia event team for organising this robust, interesting and timely discussion.


Gothenburg, September 2021
Peter Björkborg, Manager Sustainability & Transformation at Stena Bulk