A double interview with Anita Bradshaw, CEO of Green Sea Guard and Andre van der Zwaan, Account Manager for Green Sea Guard & Managing Partner at KuneVerda
Baywatch, but with Green Suits
Green Sea Guard does remote emission telemetry for ships – putting an industrial quality analyser onboard the ship – taking samples of the exhaust as the ship sails and then sending the data about the components of the exhaust to a secure land-based server where the ship owner, the regulator or whoever has access to the ship’s data can login and view said data. Detecting the noxious gases that are so often in the news for their negative impact on human health is the first step towards getting rid of them. On top of that, Green Sea Guard utilizes artificial intelligence to provide analysis that allows the shipowner to look at engine fault diagnosis: data that matches the patterns in the exhaust with common faults and therefore eases the scheduling process of preventative maintenance. Furthermore, the data allows the owner to compare between two ships and chose which one will save him the most money to do the repair today and which one can be safely shelfed for a future date. If required by the regulator, we can package that data to prove that the shipowner is compliant with the various emission regulations around the world.
Birth of a Sea Guard
Anita’s involvement with Green Sea Guard started with two of her colleagues thought the UK – Anita’s home country – was a fine location to raise financing for a new start-up. One of the co-founders is a ship designer in his 80s who has spent more time aboard a ship that on land who one day casually remarked that it was a very strange thing that the regulations about air emission and air quality were focused only on the fuel and not on the exhaust! That was the proverbial “Eureka!” moment.
The initial vision was to go door-to-door to some big companies that we believed would be interested. The responses ranged from “too difficult” to “too expensive”, passing by “there are so many problems” and ending on the optimistic note of “you will never be able to do this” – we rather liked the challenge and the rest is history!
A prototype was built and first tested on the river Thames aboard a big barge with the interest of the UK Coast Guard and the UK Ministry of Transport – that was our one and only unpaid trial, every trial since has been paid and our market traction had picked up – the time for the idea had come!
The Green Goal
The UK company was started in March 2014 and in 2017 we established a Dutch B.V. as part of the PortXL program – which was truly a life-changing experience for our little company! We found the Dutch market much more open to these new ideas compared to the UK, and with the key support of PortXL we expanded our revenue and found a number of people positive towards avoiding climate change and working towards a cleaner planet – a complete 180° turn compared to the UK.
Everyone in our company is aware of our duty towards the next generation, leaving the planet in at least as good condition as we found it.
Andre has his own opinion on the Dutch acceptance of “green” ideas – it is not just a buzzword on a website, it’s becoming closer and closer to the hearts of the people. The hearts of people lead to the hearts of organisations and that is how the green tide has made its way through Dutch corporate culture.
Saving the planet AND the budget
Our mission is to save the shipowner’s money, because we believe that if they can think with their heart AND wallet both, the planet will benefit immensely. That’s true of compliance in most industries, definitely in banking where I spent most of my career. If you can show shipowners EXACTLY what is wrong with their engines with accurate insights, then they tend to be much keener to learn how to be green, as it saves them money. Every ship we’ve looked at, we have been able to make a positive business case.
Speedbumps on the Road to Success
Bringing something new and unfamiliar to the table comes with a huge burden of education. It took a long time to turn heads and flip opinions in the industry, but we feel that the trend has change for the positive now – that was our biggest challenge
Convincing shipowners, Andre says, has a lot to do with the approach. Green Sea Guard has three pillars for selling: Environmental, Fuel savings and Engine management. Depending on the audience and the context of the discussion, one of the three will be the main argument, with “fuel savings” being the most used one. Experience shows that “environmental + cost = low success rate”, while “environmental + cost savings” is a winning equation.
According to Anita, an important factor contributing to the success of Green Sea Guard was the non-traditional look of them as a start-up. On average they were 30 years older than other fellow companies taking part of the PortXL program. In an industry as conservative as maritime, a “mature look” goes a long way. One of the reasons that Andre and his colleague Ed (Ed van Dort, Managing Partner at KuneVerda, ndr) have been so successful is that they understand the needs of the shipowners and gain their trust in the first place. Without establishing that trust and professionalism and without the help from PortXL with certain clients, we could have presented all the arguments ever, but still gotten nowhere.
Green Award Certification
In December 2018 Green Sea Guard was certified at the Green Award. Being part of that platform as an incentive provider for vessel owners to get discounts on, for instance, port duties is our achievement for the day and a major step forward for us. Suddenly all of our thousands of potential customers are getting a message that Green Sea Guard is part of Green Award. Because being green and sustainable is one thing but being able to make money off it makes the hammer fall down on the table.
A Myriad of Awards and Accomplishments
The Green Award certification has the potential to double our business cases. Before that, we got a grant from the European Space Agency – our first government grant in the UK – to put together the satellite communications part of our offering. Currently most of our customers are ships in the harbour or on coastal or inland waterways, so being able to tackle the ocean market would be seriously important for us.
Other members of our “trophy cabinet” include:
- Welsh Enterprise Board award for Western European emissions monitoring
- The 2018 Rushlight Award, an international award looking for sustainable companies
- Finalist for a Wartsila project – they flew us to Finland, expense paid, to explore what projects we could be doing with them – them being a massive company means it takes some time to things get bedded in
- Collaboration agreement with Navarino, a big maritime communications company, which means that once we get the satellite capability up and running, we have great chances of having assistance in the sales process.
For Andre, what is coming is a step up in the sales process, both national and international, as shipping company almost always work globally, therefore being Green Sea Guard in Rotterdam does not mean only speaking to Dutch customers, but to worldwide ones.
Anita’s excitement is palpable as she announces a massive amount of interest from Portugal: the ports of Leixoes, Figueroa de Foz and Aveiro are all interested in trialing their technology or use it to sell a service of “do you know what’s going on with your exhaust” to shipowners coming through. This is a powerful development, as it will enable shipowners to get a look at Green Sea Guard’s capabilities and ease the process of building a business case. Their company is also building a French connection with the port of Marseille, who is looking to create a dashboard for measured emissions, rather than calculated ones. An exciting new foray into a new country!
Other than countries, Green Sea Guard is moving into other sectors too, such as inland waterway vessels and chemical storage plants, to measure what gases are left in the pipeline and advise the owners what to do with them. From a financial perspective, it is important to diversify the cash flow, as shipowners tend to pay quite slowly.
As a closing thought, Anita underlines that they naturally do this to make money, but also to make a difference. Making a difference now has a larger impact than making it in a few years. Regulations are all fine and dandy, but the best course of action is to start saving emissions NOW, as they are doing!