Marine & OffshoreOctober 7, 2020

Transforming to a sustainable maritime future

Discover how the French Maritime Cluster (CMF) promotes industry-wide change to achieve environmental and business sustainability through collaboration and data-sharing.
Avatar Nick Lerner

Comprising 440 organizations, the French Maritime Cluster (CMF) promotes industry-wide change to achieve environmental and business sustainability. Compass spoke with CMF President Frédéric Moncany de Saint-Aignan about the importance of working collaboratively among the industry’s many different stakeholders, with other industries and with government officials, and about how digitalization is contributing to the industry’s transition.

COMPASS: CMF represents a surprisingly large part of the French economy. Can you please describe its scope, work and goals?

FREDERIC MONCANY de SAINT-AIGNAN: CMF gathers together the whole of the French marine industry including ship owners and operators, yards, fishing, energy – including oil and gas – leisure, finance and training. France has the second largest sea area after the United States, as it includes vast oceans around our Polynesian territories. The industry accounts for more than 95 billion euros [US$108 billion] annual turnover and – excluding tourism – directly employs 350,000 people. That makes it bigger than the French aerospace and telecoms industries.

Frédéric Moncany de Saint-Aignan worked as a master mariner and river pilot at the port of Rouen, France, for 25 years. In 2009, he became chair of the French Maritime Pilots’ Association and then VP of the International Maritime Pilots’ Association. In 2014, he became President of the French Maritime Cluster. Then in 2019, he also was named President of the National Maritime School. 

CMF also has developed the Coalition for Maritime Environmental and Energy Transition, which includes more than 20 major industry stakeholders. This coalition aims to define a 2050 vision for maritime environmental and energy transition and to identify the actions that will be key to meeting the greenhouse gas reduction objectives of the International Maritime Organization [IMO].

Besides bringing the industry together, we promote CMF to businesses and politicians and push development of the Blue Economy, also called the Ocean Economy, which the World Bank defines as “sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem.”

COMPASS: Please explain how the Blue Economy combines development, sustainability, environment and economy.

FMdS-A: The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD] predicts that the global Blue Economy will double in size to, 2.50 trillion euros [US$3 trillion] over the next decade. As well as growth of traditional marine industries, massive development will come from new and expanding sectors that include energy, aquaculture, tourism, undersea mining and minerals, and biodiversity, which will see new food and medical advances coming from cellular animals and algae. This represents a huge field for discovery. President Emmanuel Macron of France said that the 21st century will be the “maritime century,” with the industry being the main driver for economic growth.

COMPASS: How is technology helping to nurture innovation, foster collaboration and operational synergies?

FMdS-A: With the ability to quickly and precisely access, deliver and collaboratively share the right information digitally on a universally accessible platform, we are quickly and efficiently exploring new types of fuels and propulsion for ships, cranes and vehicles in partnership with auto and aero companies. We are developing blood substitutes and wound dressings from ocean microorganisms, and we are devising, testing and tasting exciting new foods. Also, safe undersea mining is expanding. These and many more activities sustainably drive growth and help reduce negative environmental impacts.

COMPASS: What issues require urgent attention in the maritime sector?

FMdS-A: We need to tackle plastic, emissions, species extinction, climate change and much more. Through working collaboratively, the industry is on a good track towards better environmental and business sustainability, with many big initiatives underway. These include Getting to Zero Coalition, which is committed to getting commercially viable deep sea zero emission vessels into operation by 2030 – maritime shipping’s moon-shot ambition. Another initiative, Poseidon Principles, provides a framework for integrating climate considerations into bank’s lending decisions that promote international shipping’s decarbonization. So far 18 leading banks, jointly representing 128 billion euros [US$150 billion] in shipping finance, have committed to this scheme.

We can achieve more and are more intelligent together, so CMF connects and works closely with NGOs [non-governmental organizations], enterprises, financiers and governments, defining and quickly transitioning to global sustainability solutions.

COMPASS: What are the biggest obstacles?

FMdS-A: Solutions at sea are always expensive and often require long-term investments in terms of time and money. A digital enterprise platform that hosts knowledge from multiple sources and projects helps stakeholders see the big picture and make wiser and better-informed decisions.

COMPASS: How important is innovation?

FMdS-A: Our credo is that innovation is the future. Blue [ocean-based] technology is transforming economies, spurred by innovation that derives from people and organizations working in unison. Enabling digital cross-fertilization among multiple industries is a vital component because it efficiently accelerates innovations while introducing transformative operational interactions, paradigm shifts and new business models.

COMPASS: Do you have any examples of these interactions delivering positive results?

FMdS-A: Virtual twin vessels are exact representations of ships through its lifecycle – accurate in every detail.  They digitally interact with ports, land-based operations and the broader environment. Working toward ultra-efficient, autonomous and environmentally optimized extended industry operations is made possible through precise modeling and simulation using virtual twins. Sharing ideas and data this way moves us toward the best and most optimized solutions.

COMPASS: What does the future of the maritime industry look like?

FMdS-A: It looks brilliant. This is the most exciting time for the industry since the switch from wind to steam power in the mid-19th century. Technology is now so advanced that it has become easy to innovate and much simpler to implement new ideas. The industry is moving forward at an unprecedented pace, and it is bound to continue. By bringing their cleverness to CMF, people and businesses empower the transformations that industry, society and our oceans require for a truly sustainable future.

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