Nikolaus H. Schües

Being the Practical Voice of Shipping

Published: 09 July 2024

Interview with Mr. Nikolaus H. Schües, President of BIMCO

By Longyu Xue, China Ship Survey

The shipping industry is the backbone of international trade and the world economy. When the world's supply chain faces disruptions from pandemics and geopolitical tensions, it's the shipping industry and its numerous seafarers who shoulder the load, ensuring the seamless flow of goods and vital supplies to sustain daily life worldwide. Moreover, amidst the global push for climate action and sustainable development, shipping is actively embracing a greener, low-carbon future. However, many people are still unaware of these crucial contributions. 

As the world's largest international shipping association and the practical voice of the industry, BIMCO (The Baltic and International Maritime Council) stands at the forefront of global developments in shipping. It not only fosters the prosperity and growth of its members and the industry through its expertise but also strives to raise the profile of shipping, reshape public understanding, and make the indispensable role played by shipping and seafarers better known around the world.

Nikolaus H. Schües, CEO and owner of Reederei F. Laeisz, has been elected as the 46th President of BIMCO at the organisation’s general meeting on 25 May 2023, becoming the first German national holding the position since 2011. Since taking over the presidency, Nikolaus H. Schües has been leading BIMCO to move forward in its efforts to decarbonize and digitize its members, as well as to contribute to the sustainable development of the industry and the well-being of seafarers. In a recent interview with China Ship Survey, President Nikolaus H. Schües shared his goals and thoughts on his work as well as the positive progress BIMCO has made in these areas.

Q: What goals have you set for yourself since being elected as the President of BIMCO?
A: It is about one year ago since I took over as President of BIMCO. Since then, we have witnessed some major events that have an impact on our industry in different ways. These include the updated GHG strategy from the IMO, a rise in attacks on shipping in the Red Sea area and a rise in piracy activity, as well as an increase in regulations from the EU such as the EU ETS and the upcoming FuelEU Maritime. With regards to the IMO’s GHG strategy, one of our goals is to help our members decarbonise by offering tools, advice and expertise that work in practice. We have developed a portfolio of carbon clauses, and we are persistently calling for everyone to adopt and embrace operational efficiency measures and digitalisation. Adopting operational efficiency measures can help cut our carbon footprint and numerous solutions are already available to be implemented without delay.
Another goal is to continue to call for our seafarers to be designated keyworkers and educate the public and decision makers worldwide about the crucial role they and our industry play. We supply the world with over 80 percent of world trade, but a big portion of the public and decision makers are unaware. We must continue to communicate to the world outside shipping that we are responsible for supplying the world with everything from food and fuel to toys and clothing, and that we are working towards doing so in an increasingly sustainable manner. Thousands of seafarers were left stranded during the COVID pandemic, and currently they are risking their lives in the Red Sea area due to attacks on shipping. Seafarers must never be collateral damage and should not be risking their lives while doing their jobs.
And last, but not least, we are trying to unite the views of the larger shipping organisations such as ICS, Intertanko, Intercargo, WCS and BIMCO. The more we agree the more effective we can be in helping regulators adopt practical and implementable regulations that protects a level playing field for all industry participants.

Q: You have said that one of your key priorities over the next two years is for BIMCO to be a strong force within the area of digitalisation and optimisation of shipping. Why do you value digitalisation so much and what are the initiatives that BIMCO will take in this area next?
The reason that we are pushing for optimisation and digitalisation is simple: It is good for the environment and for business. How often can you say that? We have launched the “Declaration of the electronic Bill of Lading” and the “25 by 25 pledge”, and we are engaged with the biggest mining companies in the world to promote the adoption of e-bills and step up efficiency. Also, we are working with the IMO to help promote the Maritime Single Window and we are working with the Blue Visby Consortium because their solution alone has the potential to cut our emissions by 15% by optimising ships’ arrival times at their destination. We believe that becoming even more efficient by upgrading our vessels, changing the way business counterparts and supply chain players interact, and embracing new concepts and technologies will be key to reaching the near-term targets of the IMO GHG strategy. 
I believe we are at a turning point for shipping, and right now, tackling decarbonisation, we have the chance as an industry to either do very well, or be fragmented like many other industries. We often talk about decarbonisation as a project further down the line, but it is very important to focus on what can be done right now. We know that we need to optimise our fleet, deploy energy-saving devices and solutions, and change some of the current supply chain operating practices. This must be done whilst alternative fuels are being developed and infrastructure is being built.

Q: Beyond that, what other matters will you mainly focus on during your presidency?
Decarbonising our industry is a tremendous challenge, and there is no doubt about that. But the shipping industry has transformed before, and I believe that we can meet the 2050 target of the IMO GHG strategy. It is sometimes easy to lose focus when there is so much to do. The 2040 indicative checkpoint of the IMO GHG strategy will be a big challenge and it is only 16 years from now. It will require that ships can use zero- or near zero GHG emissions fuels and that the availability of sustainable electricity is ramped up at scale. And it will require that production and distribution of the zero- or near zero GHG emissions fuels have been scaled up to account for about 90% of the shipping industry’s energy need by then. Much of this is beyond the direct control of the individual players in the shipping industry. We have a monumental task ahead of us: we are tasked with decarbonising an industry that is responsible for transporting over 80 percent of world trade. So, where do we start? We can certainly start by improving our operational measures. Each one of us can identify where we can make the biggest difference, the biggest commitment and the biggest change. I believe that is a good place to start.
Also, at BIMCO we will continue to work on the clauses needed to address the implications of decarbonisation and facilitate compliance. We have developed a portfolio of carbon clauses to address the EU ETS and similar schemes and established a subcommittee to examine the implications of the regulation.  Also, we are currently developing more alternative fuels clauses, including an annex for methanol, and clauses aiming to meet the growing demand for offshore wind turbines, for which a subcommittee has already been established. As for all our projects, the input from participants, members and partners throughout Asia and beyond is of significant value to us, and it is essential for arriving at a balanced final result.
Lastly, we have for a long time called for the Hong Kong Convention to enter into force. When Bangladesh and Liberia ratified the convention last year, it paved the way for its entering into force, 14 years after 63 nations adopted it. We believe the ratification marks the beginning of a new era for the ship recycling industry and we believe it is crucial that legal obstacles and conflicts, between the Hong Kong Convention and the Basel Convention do not limit the scope of this historic opportunity. We will continue to work towards a safe and environmentally responsible ship recycling industry, and we will continue to call on shipowners to make the right choices when their ships reach the end of their operational lives. The leading ship recycling nations satisfy significant amounts of their need for steel through the recycling of our ships, and provide thousands of jobs, directly and indirectly. We need this done the right way and we believe the benefits of the ship recycling industry’s contribution to the circular economy are too big to be missed.

Q: The decarbonisation process of the shipping industry is accelerating, how would you comment on the progress of the shipping’s green transition and the results achieved so far?
I believe the shipping industry is at a turning point with defining decisions to be made in support of the IMO’s GHG strategy. Some say it cannot be done and that there will not be enough renewable energy to decarbonise the global grid, let alone provide enough green fuels to power the shipping industry. However, our industry has sustainability and innovation in its blood, and we have a global regulator which has aligned with the Paris Agreement and set a clear path for shipping’s decarbonisation. I believe the 2050 target is possible for us, but I also believe the 2040 checkpoint is a big challenge. It is only 16 years from now. We are seeing progress everywhere, from new fuels to smarter ways of operating and I believe the shipping industry is in a good position when it comes to its commitment to support the world’s decarbonisation efforts.

Q: In recent years, BIMCO has launched a number of films to call for actions to address the problems in the shipping industry. What achievements have been made by speaking for the shipping industry in such an innovative way?
The four films we have made available to the industry have addressed the importance of shipping, the crucial role of our seafarers, what we are doing to decarbonise and why responsible ship recycling matters. The films have been widely used, also for educational purposes, and have thereby helped inform decision makers and the public that shipping is the backbone of world trade, and that we are working to make shipping greener.

Q: How can BIMCO help to better tell the story of shipping and make it more accessible to the public in the future?
We all have a job to do when it comes to communicating that shipping is crucial to all our lives, and that we are responsible for supplying the world with everything that we need. This is why BIMCO has produced the four industry films. Our aim is to continue do exactly that: to inform the world outside shipping of the important role that shipping and seafarers play, and what we are doing to decarbonise and recycle our ships in a sustainable manner. We will continue to do this, and we hope as many as possible will join us on this mission. 
This is much in line with my efforts to unite the different voices of shipping as mentioned at the start of the interview. At BIMCO, we do not see us as a lobbyist for a certain segment of shipping. Rather, we see ourselves as an information supplier. The sources of this information are not only the experts in the secretariats’ offices around the world. It is based on the knowledge of our more than 400 volunteers in many different committees. That knowledge base is unique and covers all aspects of shipping. That is why we refer to ourselves as the practical voice of shipping.

Q: As China Classification Society (CCS)-surveyed fleet has just reached the 200 million GT milestone. How do you see the progress achieved by CCS and its role in the international maritime community?
Reaching the 200 million GT milestone is testament to the fact that the China Classification Society (CCS) has been on a very successful journey. As a member of the International Association of Classification Societies and with a stubborn focus on value, technological advancement and credibility, the CCS has ensured steady and substantial international growth over the years. BIMCO is delighted to have followed this progress and will continue to do so in the future.

Q: What significant exchanges and cooperation have BIMCO and CCS conducted over the years? And what are your expectations for the future cooperation between BIMCO and CCS?
BIMCO and CSS have a history of close co-operation. We have been working together across many areas over the years, including the Tripartite, industry standards development and on arranging BIMCO events, to mention a few. Going forward, we hope to further strengthen our collaboration with CCS within important areas such as international and regional maritime regulations, digitalisation and decarbonisation.


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Communications Team

Copenhagen, Denmark