“The world has to know that there is so much more to shipping than transporting Nike shoes.”
Three months ago, Niko Schües took over as President of BIMCO and he believes the shipping industry is at a turning point. Nevertheless, he does not only focus on the big solutions of the future, but he wants to raise awareness about the vast potential that lies in solutions that are already available and which can cut shipping’s carbon footprint without delay.
His ambitions include to promote efforts to change the general misconception among the public and policymakers that shipping is all about transporting consumer goods in containers. In his view shipping is much more; it is the backbone of everything – or at least of the world economy. Meet BIMCO’s new President.
The ink is barely dry on the updated 2023 IMO Strategy on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from ships. BIMCO’s new President believes the shipping industry is at a turning point with defining decisions to be made in support of the new and more ambitious strategy, which may result in shipping being a role model for a sustainable economy.
“We often talk about decarbonisation as a project further down the line, but it is also very important to focus on what can be done right now,” says Schües.
Initiatives that can make immediate cuts to carbon emissions are initiatives such as BIMCO’s “25 by 25 Pledge” to accelerate the uptake of electronic bills of lading, and the support for initiatives such as the Blue Visby Consortium to support research into practical solutions that can help increase efficiency.
“We are moving fast towards 2030, and all of us in the maritime industry must increasingly focus on efficiency and digitalisation,” he says and continues: “money spent for research is spent well.”
Fighting regulatory fragmentation
In addition to launching a new and more ambitious GHG strategy, the IMO has also elected a new Secretary-General, Arsenio Dominguez. Supporting the new Secretary-General in achieving the aims of the new strategy is crucial, according to Schües.
“I believe it is very important for the stakeholders at the IMO, of which BIMCO has consultative status, to collaborate and support the organisation in maintaining its role as the undisputed global regulator for shipping. The potential confusion of fragmentation and regional regulation could be disastrous for our industry,” he says, adding:
“With global regulation, we can be a positive example of decarbonisation to the world outside shipping. We are at a turning point. Right now, tackling decarbonisation, we have the chance as an industry to either do very well, or be fragmented like many other industries. BIMCO will do all that we can to support the IMO, the new Secretary-General, the new GHG strategy, and our members.”
Schües says collaboration will be key, and that going forward all efforts should be put into collaboration. Collaboration between industry organisations such as BIMCO, Intertanko, Intercargo, ICS, to mention a few, is crucial. Equally important is collaboration with other stakeholders such as ports, charterers, cargo holders and regulators. Lastly, collaboration between generations should not be overlooked. It will be crucial for the shipping industry to attract the future generation of seafarers and staff across all functions, as decarbonisation efforts will require new and upgraded skills to succeed.
“We have the traditional shipowners with all their life experience and all their wisdom, who sometimes are very firm in their opinions. And we have the young, well educated, knowledgeable and idealistic people who sometimes tend to be stubborn because of their strong convictions. Respect for one another, from both sides, and a clear willingness to compromise, is vital if we are to keep learning from each other and advancing together,” he says.
Over the last two and a half years, BIMCO has launched four industry films with the aim to advance knowledge among the public and decision makers. The films are available for free and highlight the role shipping plays in society and the world, the important job seafarers do, the work the industry is doing to decarbonise, and the importance of working towards a safe and environmentally sound ship recycling industry.
Schües believes such projects and initiatives from BIMCO are crucial and wishes to continue to focus on helping the public and decision makers to understand:
“It is very important that we continue to show the world outside that our industry is in fact interested in being a clean industry. Also, it is essential that we educate the outside world of the fact that shipping is not only about the Nike shoes,” he says, and continues:
Shipping is about raw materials used to produce the Nike shoes. Shipping is about energy used in the production of the Nike shoes. Shipping is the medicine that we need and the food that we eat. Believing that shipping is all about the consumer goods is a big misunderstanding,” says Schües.
The strength of BIMCO
With all the challenges and opportunities facing the shipping industry in the years to come, as decarbonisation goals approach and demands for greener shipping grow, Schües is confident that BIMCO has a big advantage in being an NGO that is not representing national interests or industry fractions but is representing the whole spectrum.
“We have some 450 volunteers from all sizes and types of companies representing a broad range of nationalities of this global industry, and they all participate in different boards and committees. Together with the secretariat in seven locations this is the biggest strength of BIMCO which I will fully embrace, also in making sure that the board is represented with different views and that everyone is heard and respected. This is the very core of BIMCO,” he says.
Who is Niko Schües:
Niko Schües began his career in the shipping industry 38 years ago as an apprentice with a Hamburg-based ship broker in 1985. Growing up in a shipping family, there was a certain influence to join the industry from early on, but there never was pressure. Schües chose shipping primarily because it is a “peoples’ industry”. It also appealed to him early on that shipping is a truly global industry. His family company, F. Laeisz, will celebrate its 200th anniversary next year.
Schües is married to geologist Ute, and the couple has three children. He believes it is too early to tell whether they will be following his path, and that they have neither a right nor an obligation to join the family business. ”It looks promising though,” he adds with a smile.
When it is time to relax, he enjoys playing a competitive but friendly round of golf with friends or spend time with his family by the Med or on the northern coast of Germany.
“To sum it all up: I love the sea,” Schües says.