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“I’m here to make a difference” — Gust Biesbroeck

The transformation of the shipping sector towards the 2050 decarbonised sustainable goal requires substantial out of the box thinking. Fathom World continues its series of OOTB articles with a look at a company that is pushing forward a new financing model to support its suggested pathway.

A new kind of shipping company about to step out of the shadows. It wants to demonstrate that clean sustainable shipping is possible, and is profitable.

Aptly named Future Proof Shipping, the company is based in the Netherlands and has plans to build a fleet of 10 hydrogen fuel-celled powered inland barges, then to move onto bigger vessels such as short sea shipping vessels and even deep sea vessels.

The aim of FPS is not to prove the technology works, that’s already been done, but to show that the industry can profitably move into a sustainable future. It’s plans are ambitious, and comes with a self-declared called to arms: “Just do it”

Get Decabonisation Done

The company germinated out of Dutch research into market opportunities for entrepreneurial businesses. It also has ABN AMRO’s former global head of transport finance Gust Biesbroeck as its financial adviser.

His job is to bring in the financial partners to the project. Biesbroeck spent 10 years as head of ship finance at ABN AMRO and was instrumental in the banks early move into more sustainable finance, backing the kind of loans that other banks saw as just too green and too risky.

“This new company has been set up to just do it,” he said. “To do the pilot, to buy the (diesel powered) ship and convert it to hydrogen. To show the market it can be done, and to learn about the pitfalls and hurdles to make it better the next time.”

FPS is based in Rotterdam, was founded by an entrepreneur Huib van de Grijspaarde. and consists of a small team of experts quietly looking at how to form a sustainable business model for a future shipping company.

It’s not just about the ship

The work that Future Proof Shipping has been quietly doing since its launch has been to find and work with shippers and cargo owners that see the economic benefits of a more sustainable supply chain.

The company is looking to reveal plans for the first project soon, but to also talk more about the need to focus on the trade side too.

According to Biesbroeck the push has to come from the cargo owners, who are being subject to a more visible societal push. He also sees the push coming from further down the chain, and here he points to recent announcements from Maersk.

“So there is now a lot of appetite and there is a lot more experience in the technology, and there is an incentive in the value chain” he says. He also points to some calculations he has made on the costs of a decarbonised or sustainable transport chain, which he says are becoming negligible.

“The technology will become cheaper as it becomes more available, meanwhile polluting will be expensive, either financially through loan rates or regulation, or through damage to reputation.

Biesbroeck is not only helping Future Proof Shipping. He has his financial head into other projects too that look at the sustainable or environmental footprint of the industry: A data related start-up able to track vessels and accurately determine fuel and emissions, a project to reduce volatile organic compounds being emitted from large crude carriers, a Dutch modular scrubber maker, or an initiative to develop specific climate bonds for shipping, something he believes the industry is now ready for.

The reason for this? “I just want to accelerate the change,” he says.

About Author

Craig Eason Stockholm
Craig Eason is the owner and editorial director of Fathom.World. He has a background in the shipping industry having started his career as a cadet on oil tankers and gas carriers before becoming a navigating officer on a range of vessel types. A change in career, with ensuing university studies, and he has now gained 20 years experience in written and broadcast journalism. He now is in demand as a knowledgeable and competent editor and event host and moderator, both for in-house events and ones for the public.