An interview with Bo Cerup-Simonsen

Cerup-Simonsen heads up the Centre with the longest name. He has a job to do, and changing it is not one of them

The Maersk Mc-Kinney Møller Centre for Zero Carbon Shipping, is, despite its rather long name, surprisingly difficult to find, being tucked between shops on one of Copenhagen’s busiest streets. Admittedly the shops are not the run of the mill high street type, but high-end design shops selling jewellery and grand pianos, and the street runs behind the royal palaces and is a stone’s throw from Esplanaden 50. It is also nothing more than a two minute cycle ride from another Copenhagen-based change influencer, the Global Maritime Forum.


The Centre occupies a whole floor or two around a courtyard, and it is here that over sixty, soon to be 100, staff work on its mission to speed up the decarbonisation of the shipping industry.


At the end of April this year, the Zero Carbon Centre had something of a coming out week with the World Maritime Technology Conference taking place in Copenhagen, where four streams of sessions over three days brought delegates to the Danish Capital.


Bo Cerup-Simonsen, the Centre’s head, and Claus Graugaard, the Centre’s Head of Onboard Vessel Solutions along with other staff, were showcasing the work so far since the creation of the centre a little over a year ago.


Talking with Simonsen means talking to a man with the quiet determination to achieve a goal. It means also talking to a man who no doubt has to answer the same questions from industry and journalists about the Centre’s function, its goals and how it is going about its business.


Despite its name, and the fact that its funding has come from the foundation bearing the name of the biggest shipping and logistics conglomerates in the world, the Centre is independent and fuel agnostic, said Cerup-Simonsen in a personal interview with Fathom World for the Aronnax Podcast.


The basic idea for the Centre came from the Maersk Mc-Kinney Møller Group and the Foundation who decided, Simonsen said, “to put a new player into the ecosystem that would be completely independent from any country or any commercial organization or any NGO and just have one objective in mind, and that is to accelerate the transition towards zero carbon shipping with whatever are the most effective means to accelerate that.”


But there is the challenge to overcome of showing independence to the Maersk McKinney Moller shipping conglomerate, while acknowledging the doors that the name opens. During the interview Cerup-Simonsen ruefully pointed to an article about him and the Centre in a Danish business paper where the heading translated as “Maersk Boss…..”


Not a lobby group, but a lobby group


Cerup-Simonsen wants the centre to have the respect in the industry, and the backing of the Maersk McKinney Møller Centres will help achieve that he says, but is also cautious about the Centre being labelled as a lobby group as it publishes research to support the decarbonisation of shipping.


“We are agnostic to the types of technologies and the fuels, we really don’t care whether it’s a fuel cell, or an internal combustion engine, or one of the other types of fuel,” he said.


“The only thing we care about is that the solutions we are promoting and working with they are truly benefiting the climate. So that’s like the starting point. So, in a way, you could call us a lobby, but we are not a lobby organization for a particular set of fuels or technologies like a lobby group will typically be. The only thing we work for is that we get regulation that supports decarbonisation of shipping”.


To that extent the work by the centre includes bringing techno-economic analysis to the regulators, and that includes into Europe and the Commission, where the talk is about the Fuel EU Maritime directive and the inclusion of shipping into the emissions trading scheme.


“When we put our views forward on these future regulations, we have actually great confidence in the substance and depth of our positions,” said Cerup-Simonsen. “It’s not based on, you can say, some predetermined investment or business interest in a particular field, which a lobbying group would normally have.”


There is no doubt that as the Centre attracts more talent, especially as its growing number of  partners send staff to work at the Centre on specific projects to influence and speed up change, its plush offices with their polished wooden, noisy floors, could soon be too small and Cerup-Simonsen and his influencers need to find another location, no doubt still within Copenhagen’s small but influential shipping hotspot.


The full interview between Craig Eason and Bo Cerup-Simonsen can be found on the Aronnax  Podcast which will be published at the end of this week.


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