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The Nor-Shipping Ship awards – a personal perspective

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Malcolm Latarche, Chairman of the Nor-Shipping Next Generation Ship Award looks back at a decade of involvement and foresees a new era of innovation about to begin.

As first a jury member and then as Chairman of the jury, I have been involved with the Nor-Shipping Ship Awards almost from the beginning. The experience has been a most interesting one and personally I hope it will continue for some time yet as it is both a pleasure and a privilege to examine, debate and finally help decide which ship or ships will be chosen as the winner of these prestigious Awards.

After being appointed a jury member in 2011 for the first time and as part of the partnership arrangement with Fairplay Solutions magazine, in 2012, I was asked by Nor-Shipping to take a larger role in the judging process for the 2013 award. This involved collating information from all the entrants and disseminating it to the jury members whose number had been increased from earlier years to seven. Increasing the size of the jury was done in the interests of involving a wider range of interests and even included a representative from the IMO.

Pioneering innovations

Looking back at the entrants for 2013, I can see even more clearly with the benefit of hindsight just how innovative some of the vessels were. In the Next Generation category for example there were entries for ships powered entirely by battery, for a hybrid ship with battery and diesel engines, air lubrication, novel bow forms, LNG-fuelled gas turbines and also a ship intended to be fitted with a dry scrubber for SOx removal.

The Energy Efficiency Award category was equally innovative with many ships claiming EEDI ratings (this just as Phase 1 kicked in) 15, 20 and even 30% below the mandated level. Here too there were battery and hybrid vessels, efficiency measures such as shaft generators, waste heat recovery, derated engines, shore supply connections for zero emissions in port, optimised hull forms, dual-fuel engines and so much more.

Considering that candidates for the Energy Efficiency Award would needed to have been delivered either in the two years since the last Nor-Shipping or very soon after the 2013 event and the process from ordering to delivery is normally around two years, it becomes clear that pioneering owners were making these decisions well in advance of regulatory requirements.

At every Nor-Shipping since, this same pioneering spirit has been evident in the entries. It could be argued that the criticisms levelled at shipping for its environmental performance are unjustified when such examples of forward thinking exist.  It should not be forgotten that ships are working assets and can only be ordered and specified with the technologies that are available and commercially viable at the time orders are placed. This is something that jury members have taken on board, and which features in deciding the winners each time.

When it is considered that the IMO’s decarbonisation roadmap was only revealed in April 2018, it probably came too late to influence the entries for the 2019 Next Generation Award as the deadline for entries was only nine months after the MEPC meeting. And while the outside world may be demanding a hydrogen-fuelled shipping industry I believe that the best that can be expected of this year’s candidates is that some will be ships that, if not actually powered by an alternative fuel, will have been built to run on something unimaginable just a few years ago.

An era of change ahead

Coming back to the jury and judging process, my role since 2015 has been as Chairman as well as secretary and I am pleased to see that the technical and operational experience of jury members has also been enhanced with members representing class societies, shipowners, ship managers, and research institutions and having experience in designing operating and commanding ships at sea.

All the jury members are free to express their opinions as strongly and robustly as they wish but I endeavour to ensure that the voting process is democratic and fair by requiring votes to be cast at every stage of the selection and elimination process beginning with the drawing up of short lists.

I am also pleased to see that each year the diversity of entries seems to have grown both in terms of ship type and location of operators and builders.

I truly believe that the 21st century has so far been an era unlike any other and although the move from sail to steam and diesel must have been momentous, I doubt that it could have been anything like what we are experiencing today.  The next few editions of Nor-Shipping are shaping up to cover an era of unprecedented technological change I hope that my involvement with the Awards can continue long enough to see some of that change reflected in the candidates and recognised by the winning entries.

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