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  • Joern Soyke

Key takeaways from Hamburg Climate Week 2019 and SEADEVCON 2019

Updated: Nov 5, 2019

Hamburg Climate Week 2019 and SEADEVCON 2019 have just come to an end and I am happy to share my personal takeaways from these events.

Rising tides


Although there is no question that climate effects are global and are relevant for all of us, Hamburg in particular needs to pay close attention to the topic as it will be among the cities affected earlier than others. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on the ocean and cryosphere in a changing climate, a sea level rise of just one meter would “finally” give Hamburg direct sea access – at the expense of Frisia’s cities Emden and Cuxhaven.


Figure 1: Source Surging Seas Mapping Choices

The report predicts that if we do not stop - or even better reverse - manmade climate change immediately, the sea level could rise four meters during the next 250 years. That would mean that one third of today’s inhabitants in the city would not be protected from high tides any longer.

There are tools like Surging seas Mapping Choices that aim to visualize the projected effects of climate change. Although these projections are complex and the future can never be predicted accurately, it is clearly more than time to deal with the underlying issues. As politics and leaders still struggle to find or define their approach towards climate change, it is great to witness a small group of voluntary drivers, who have created a movement like the Hamburg Climate Week and have been able to mobilize so many supporters. Offering more than 250 workshops, many events and information sessions, Hamburg Climate Week is raising awareness and discussing potential imperatives to handle climate change. There is much more than I can possibly cover here, so please read here to dig deeper into the events and topics.

Logical logistics


The logistics and transportation industries are not only key industries for Hamburg, but also significant emissions contributors, and therefore require particular attention to advance change. Another major event, the SEADEVCON 2019, takes place in Hamburg around the same time and is also driven by enthusiastic volunteers who manage to win additional support.


They state their aim as follows: “The SEADEVCON brings together maritime entrepreneurs, ship owners, ship and port operators, software and hardware developers, shipping and climate experts, human rights and environmental activists, NGOs and lateral thinkers, to work together on ideas and sustainable solutions for emission reduction, for anti-corruption initiatives, and for the protection of human rights in shipping and global trade.”

Preventing pollution


Regarding pollution and climate change, the industry is becoming more and more aware of the issue, and the majority are open for a move towards zero-emission, but they are also heavily caught in the micro-economic processes. Change will -as always- not come for free and in an industry that is mainly driven by time (of delivery) and price, it is unclear who can and will pay for that change.


It is unrealistic to expect every player from within the logistics chain to be able to take care of the change independently. Rather, pressure and willingness-to-pay needs to be induced from end-to-end of the logistics chain where there everyone is engaged in the change, including the consumers. I am certain consumers would be willing to pay for zero-emission measures, as it will means only a few cents premium cost increase on a piece of apparel or sports shoe.

Testing transparency


Requiring transparency about the emissions produced by the transport of each specific product, would enable consumers to reward the brands that invest in improvement over those that don’t. Many big corporates having to defend a consumer brand are already demanding this transparency. In my view, the industry should quickly set up an independent certification unit - leveraging latest sensor, data and communication technologies – maybe in the form of a certification conglomerate.


By doing so, there would be a fair chance to collect the necessary funds over the entire value chain, starting at the consumers, which would allow a move towards Green Logistics – allowing every seriously concerned consumer to keep buying their chosen share of transported goods, instead of having to turn to alternative -local- sourcing. Companies like Patagonia and Vaude for example are living proof that interested consumers are out there, and a sustainable advantage can be turned into a competitive advantage.

Three takeaways

Besides that, what else can be done? Apparently, there are three major directions of impact:

  1. Change of consumer behavior

  2. Leverage efficiency gains

  3. Drive technology development and change


1. Change of consumer behavior

Captain Cornelius Bockermann of Timbercoast is of the opinion that a change in lifestyle will be inevitable. He believes that technology changes will neither be sufficient nor fast enough to stop or reverse manmade climate change. Rather, the developed civilizations -every one of us- would need to change their comfort- and consumption-oriented lifestyles and developing civilizations must be convinced to not follow on the previous path.


For Cornelius, a part of the answer lies in supplying a reduced lifestyle, so he turns “back” to cargo under sail. The naval architect Peter Schenzle joins him in the general idea and adds some promising technical developments to the classical sailing setup – “Sail technology is not dead, it’s part of the future”. Product developments like Norsepower underline that position.


2. Leverage efficiency gains

Of course, leveraging efficiency gains alone will not generate the impact necessary to achieve zero-emission transport in time. However, any positive contribution should be valued and smaller measures have the advantage of being quickly implementable and thus be effective quickly. Three concrete examples were presented during the StartUp night and conference were:

  • Fuel and energy saving: A well-known mechanical tweak for ships is through installing Mewis Duct to improve rudder efficiency and save energy

  • Adhesions to ship bodies impose multiple downsides, they worsen water drag and increase corrosion, and inside of shipping systems they can lead to blockades. This all starts with a biofilm, and HASYTEC aims to prevent the formation of a biofilm using Ultrasound devices.

  • It was surprising to hear how many containers are shipped empty. Not only because there is no load for the respective passage, but because the end client might reject a container due to suspicion of a defect. Based on the location of rejection, the respective container is then routed for the next owner’s inspection or the repair facility for a callback. CONEXBIRD are trying to tackle that issue, again using an Ultrasound application.


3. Drive technology development and change

Arved Fuchs, the renowned adventurer, publisher and book author made it very clear that the projections regarding climate change, along with the scientific facts that have been on the table since the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, make made the issue clear for roughly 30 years already.


Interestingly enough, for many of the problems, alternative solutions have also been known for decades. You may have judged the formerly cited example “Cargo under sail” as a very niche solution, but when looking at energy, I again -after my SXSW2019 visit- hear that large-scale alternatives are already known.


Figure 2: Source Arved Fuchs and Dr. Joachim Nitsch DLR-Institut für Technische Thermodynamik Abteilung Systemanalyse und Technikbewertung

The chart tells us that global energy consumption from 2006 could have already been served with available renewable energies six times over, not to mention the physical supply was theoretically possible. Of course, these sources need to be converted into applicable solutions -for example to vessels and cars- but I believe that this is an ancillary problem to be solved.

In summary, last week left me with a very clear picture: It is not that we don’t know what’s coming, or what’s possible, and discussion on whether projections are +0.1/-0.1 degrees accurate or not will not lead us anywhere. It remains with us -as individuals and the companies we are working for- to start doing things that contribute positively. General lines of attack are outlined above – it’s up to all of us to start with concrete initiatives!

Figure 3: Boris Herrmann had returned to Hamburg and gave his personal view to the audience

During our sessions at the Hamburg Climate Week, a light was shed on what we can do as individuals, and as a company. Sharkbite continues to take care of what businesses can do.


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