Sadan Kaptanoglu

Sadan Kaptanoglu: Encouraging a holistic view on decarbonisation and action on diversity

Published: 24 March 2022

BIMCO’s Immediate Past President and Kaptanoglu group CEO, Sadan Kaptanoglu, believes that the industry must find international consensus on the path to decarbonisation and take action on diversity.

Words: Namrata Nadkarni

Shipping is undeniably in Sadan Kaptanoglu’s blood. Exposed to workings of the industry fairly early as part of the Kaptanoglu Group, she has not only taken the helm of the company as CEO, but has also been a leading figure at a number of industry associations such as the Turkish Chamber of Shipping, TURMEPA and INTERMEPA. Notably, she was also the first woman to be elected as President of BIMCO, a role that she held between 2019-2021.

She has built a reputation not only as a successful shipowner but also as someone with a keen eye for the industry and love for its nature.

“I was drawn to how dynamic, speedy and international the business is,” she explains. “I enjoy being a part of this sophisticated international group of people where you need to be creative, innovative and bold.”

Kaptanoglu’s ability to keep pace with change is an extremely valuable trait given the changes that the industry is facing. Shipping is currently working to decarbonise, with goals for 2030, 2050 and Net Zero all on the horizon. “I am so proud to be part of an international industry that is making such a huge commitment. Shipping has a real ambition to decarbonise its fleet of 62,000 ships,” she says.

This transition requires buy in across the entire chain spanning fuel providers to ports, shipyards and charterers, the Turkish-national says, pointing out that transparency and clear communication will be vital to the process. This can be tricky, not least given the complications sometimes surrounding terminology.

“Just like there were multiple interpretations of the word digitalisation, different people think decarbonisation means different things,” she says, advocating for a clear set of established terminology to ensure that the industry is not talking at cross purposes and can make truly sustainable change.

Finding the right solutions

The owner operator feels that decarbonisation will be a multi-stage process as older vessels are phased out and existing vessels are retrofitted to meet industry targets. However, the impact is already being felt. “Shipowners are being incentivised to keep their vessels younger in order to get top dollar and maintain business relations with top charterers,” she says, explaining that the average lifespan of a ship is shrinking as customer requirements and regulations become far stricter.

Kaptanoglu argues that in decarbonising, the industry will need to adopt a holistic view and look at the most sustainable solutions when recycling ships and carrying out retrofits to minimize emissions.

In addition, she believes the industry’s decarbonisation fund initiative is an important step towards finding the technology and fuel solutions that will work in practice. “BIMCO and our industry partners have proposed the creation of a $5 billion fund to focus on shipping innovation solutions raised from a surcharge on bunkering,” she explains.

Creating the right conditions

Most vital to the decarbonisation process is the development of alternative fuels. However, as Kaptanoglu points out, shipping is dependent on close co-operation with external suppliers. Additionally, the process of creating enforceable regulations and policy takes a significant amount of time.

“I believe that eventually there will be different layers, business models and multiple solutions and it will take one generation of vessels to transform to non-fossil fuels,” she predicts, adding that BIMCO will support its members as this transition unfolds.

International regulation must also be implemented in a way that assures a level playing field and prevent early movers from being penalised. “We need market-based measures in order to ensure that early investors and new investors can operate in the same markets,” Kaptanoglu argues.

Incoming regulations, such as the Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII) and the Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (EEXI), will also lead to the development of a certain expertise in emission reductions. “At BIMCO, we have been working very hard to support this transition with contracts and clauses,” she said, adding that new regulations inevitably have a learning curve, and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) will need to evolve these as the industry adapts.

Kaptanoglu is also orchestrating the greening of Kaptanoglu Group’s current fleet of six tankers which will be retrofitted, noting that small and medium sized companies such as the Kaptanoglu Group are closely following the developments and initiatives of the industry as a whole.

Industry vantage points

The Kaptanoglu Group CEO is more aware than most of how each sector of the maritime industry has its own urgency and pace. Acknowledging growing pockets of frustration with the slow pace of international policy and regulations, she points out that the IMO faces the difficulty of arriving at a consensus among the 175 member states.

Her own history as a shipowner with an investment in shipyards also allows her to sympathise with shipowners about the urgency of operations. With 80% of the Kaptanoglu Group’s shipyard business invested in repair and maintenance and 20% coming from constructing navy projects, she’s answerable to customers who want speedy results.

Balancing the variety of these perspectives has allowed her a fairly unique overview of the industry as a whole.

She is, as a leading woman in maritime, also best placed to talk about the changes that must take place for the industry to becomes more diverse and inclusive.

“I’ve been hearing for over two decades now that people believe in diversity and inclusion. But when you look for actions, you don’t find enough. This is why I believe that the actions should be visible,” she says, pointing out that BIMCO has elected two women presidents. “This is a start, and it shows a commitment to diversity.”

She is particularly pleased that BIMCO has a working group to develop a diversity and inclusion policy that will continue to build on the steps already taken to build a multiplicity of voices in the industry. 
Charlotte Lord


Charlotte Lord

Chief Communications Officer

London, United Kingdom