SEA20 group: Marine cities are the new nexus of power needed for a cleaner future

Source: press release, 28 June 2019

SEA20 is a not-for-profit initiative aimed at bringing together a selected group of representatives from the world’s most influential port cities to plan the future of urban living and the role of shipping
SEA20 is a not-for-profit initiative aimed at bringing together a selected group of representatives from the world’s most influential port cities to plan the future of urban living and the role of shipping (photo: Wärtsilä)

Thursday 27 June, 2019, saw distinguished political and industry leaders congregate at the Hilton Helsinki Kalastajatorppa in Finland for an afternoon of closed-door talks at what was the first SEA20 High-Level Meeting.

SEA20 is a not-for-profit initiative aimed at bringing together a selected group of representatives from the world’s most influential port cities to plan the future of urban living and the role of shipping. Participants at the event included Jan Vapaavuori, Mayor, City of Helsinki; Alexander Stubb, Former Finnish PM and now Vice-President, European Investment Bank; Jaakko Eskola, President and CEO, Wärtsilä; Joshua Berger, Director of Maritime, State of Washington and many more revered guests from China, Europe and the US.

The aim of the meeting: to find common solutions for building a globally efficient, ecologically sound and digitally connected future maritime sector. Why? According to the United Nation’s latest estimate, 68% of the global population will live in cities by the year 2050. This shift places pressure on the development of city infrastructure and the maritime sector. While shipping is by far the most cost-effective way to move goods and people around the world, as consumer demand increases maritime businesses are increasingly faced with major challenges in transitioning to greener, more sustainable operations.

“According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), 90% of global goods are transported by sea meaning that globalisation, urbanisation and the development of maritime logistics are all deeply interconnected. When working on several pilot projects related to, for example, renewable fuels and the digitalisation of the maritime industry, we have noticed a general reluctance to adopt new solutions on a broader global level. We believe that this stems from a lack of market incentives and supportive legislation. The entire industry should be further encouraged to be more transparent and cooperate more broadly. When we all work together we can build a stronger marine ecosystem,” says President and CEO of Wärtsilä, Jaakko Eskola.

The event included a discussion on the preliminary findings of the “Maritime Future: A Global Analysis on Marine and the Environment” – a report compiled by the think tank Nordic West Office with contributions from global experts in maritime and city planning. The full report, to be published later this year, aims to map the answers to several bottlenecks related to the development of the maritime industry.

“The need to create a smarter marine and energy ecosystem that can handle change in the coming decades is of paramount importance for our marine cities. Today, shipping lacks the comprehensive sharing of data and mutual trust necessary for solving sustainability issues. The issue of the common fate of cities and ports should be raised. Ports and their surrounding areas, at sea and on land, are in need of innovations and their creators,” says Lauri Tähtinen, the Nordic West Office Research Director responsible for conducting the report.

Participants at the event debated the themes of the report and its preliminary findings. There was consensus that cities are fast becoming the drivers of global development in a world that needs to find greener and more sustainable solutions. Pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and increasing congestion are contributing to social tension in cities. The maritime sector has a significant role to play in abating these issues if only the doors would be further opened to encourage a better relationship between the key stakeholders. It was raised that guidelines for a smarter maritime ecosystem are needed and the foundation of new 2020 principles was proposed to provide a framework for this.

“There is a need for cooperation. For example, the port of Helsinki and the city of Helsinki are jointly developing port-city ecosystem by enhancing operational efficiency, digitalisation and sustainability through innovation and experiments. We see SEA20 as a great way of sharing these kinds of experiments with other cities and tackling challenges together,” says Ulla Tapaninen. Head of Unit, Enterprise Services, at the City of Helsinki.