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Friday, June 28, 2019 

SEA20, a not-for-profit initiative aimed at bringing together representatives from the world’s most influential port cities to plan the future of urban living and the role of shipping, recently met in Helsinki, hosted by Wärtsilä. Participants included guests from China, Europe and the US.

The aim of the meeting was to find common solutions for building a globally efficient, ecologically sound and digitally connected future maritime sector. 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 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,” said 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,” said Lauri Tähtinen, Nordic West Office Research Director, who was responsible for conducting the report.

There was general 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.


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