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Exclusive: Leaders KSA magazine interviews Secretary General of (IWSA)

By Magdy Sadik

Gavin Allwright has been the Secretary of the International Windship Association (IWSA) since it was established in 2014, a not-for-profit group of maritime wind propulsion companies. 

He is also on the UN International Maritime Organization (IMO) Maritime Technology Cooperation Centres (MTCC) stakeholder’s advisory committee and is a non-executive board member of the World Wind Energy Association (WWEA).

He has also chaired the Royal Institute of Naval Architect’s (RINA) Shipping Efficiency & Wind Propulsion conferences during the last four years of the Natural Propulsion Seminar, as part of Blueweek, hosted by the Marine Research Institute of the Netherlands (MARIN).

He is currently an advisor on several EU and international joint industry and research projects, including WASP, WiSP, STEERER, VTAS, Decarbonising UK Freight, and the Post Carbon Logistics Center.

Gavin holds a Masters degree in Sustainable Development, specialising in small scale Sustainable Shipping & Logistics in developing countries. He lectures on the Development of Wind Propulsion & Sustainable Shipping as a visiting lecturer at some universities, including the UN World Maritime University in Malmo, Sweden.

In an exclusive interview with Leader Magazine, Gavin said that the Saudi 2030 vision means economic diversification and is the pivot away from oil dependency. It also focuses on intermodal development and the integration of transport and logistics, which will help to make ports more efficient and grow in trade:

“We view the Kingdom’s region as an increasingly important one for the uptake of wind propulsion technology, thus I hope to go there soon.”

How do you see what is happening in the ports in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and their 2030 Vision?

While not a port specialist, I can see that the 2030 vision means economic diversification and it is the pivot away from oil dependency, which will mean continued stronger demand for multi-purpose, dry bulk and container facilities. It also focuses on intermodal development and the integration of transport and logistics, which will help to make ports more efficient and grow in trade. As a supporter of innovation in transportation and the search for low carbon solutions, I would expect to see the port operators leading the charge on that too.

Have you visited the kingdom before?

While I have visited the region before, it is my past misfortune not to have visited Saudi Arabia yet, my last opportunity, unfortunately, coincided with an extended business trip I was on in the US and Canada. However, many of our members do business with or visit the kingdom each year, and I know they are always well-received. As our activities and membership network grows, we view the region as an increasingly important one for the uptake of wind propulsion technology, thus I hope to go there soon. 

What can you offer to Saudi Arabia through your organization?

As with all innovation and technology development, we work from a collaborative perspective. This means our organization aims to provide as much information available to the market place as possible about the potential of wind propulsion and hybrid integration with other fuel alternatives and low carbon technology developments. While our capacity and funding are limited, we endeavour to help facilitate partnerships and introduce companies and technology developers that are in search of markets and funding to those opportunities. We are also at the early stage of setting up a Wind Propulsion Accelerator program that will generate a pipeline of wind propulsion technologies and project, help incubate those and then provide a test fleet of vessels ready to test, and validate and certify those technologies. Through our organization, there will be opportunities to better assess and support those systems in the future.

Wind propulsion technologies themselves hold great potential benefit for Saudi fleet operators and owners. As we understand it, these ships are new and best in class when it comes to efficiency and regulatory compliance, however, the deployment of wind propulsion systems can go even further and make those vessels leading statements of a ‘beyond compliance’ approach that certainly fits with the ambitious goals of the 2030 vision. As we know, there is nothing more visual as a statement of the intent to decarbonize a vessel than a wind-assist installation.

On a final note, we are also looking to expand our research, training and education support programs, and we are always looking for opportunities to collaborate with institutions in the region. This is a growing and highly specialized technology segment using modern materials, high levels of automation, the potential for optimization through the development of big data, AI, robotics, autonomous shipping, etc. Therefore, leading marine and technology R&D centres are seeing many areas where that knowledge base could expand and hold out opportunities soon.

Do you have any ideas about what is happening in terms of piracy, whether in the Gulf of Aden or the Gulf of Guinea?

I don’t have much information on current piracy issues, just second-hand information from contacts in the industry.

One aspect of shipping and technology development that has a bearing on this though is the need to generate and spread the economic development and work opportunities that have until now been increasingly centralized. I see there is a key element in the Vision around diversification; this generates jobs and sustainable development benefits, an example of what is required on a wider regional and global scale. Part of the work that IWSA is undertaking is to support developments in less developed countries, where fuel prices and access are extremely difficult. Wind propulsion at its core is a free energy source that starts to uncouple development from energy dependency, thus freeing up resources throughout the economies of coastal and island states. However, there are also opportunities for small wind propulsion systems and ships manufacture in these lesser developed regions, thus providing employment opportunities, as opposed to criminal pathways. The use of improved wind systems on fishing vessels along with easier accessed weather routing software can also reduce pressure on fishermen to cover fuel costs.

While I am not saying that wind propulsion can solve all of these issues, I think that providing aspiration and opportunity to impoverished coastal and island regions can be a significant ‘force for good’ and we hope that we will be able to support many more projects to deliver just that.

Are you a specialist in the 4th IR developments?

I am not a specialist in the 4th IR developments, but their nature mirrors the wind propulsion’s; it is a hybrid approach that optimizes and blends technologies to enhance results – new materials, efficient design, big data, computerization etc.

What are the future strategies?

From an association point of view, we update IMO delegates and relevant transport ministry whenever possible and I have one-one discussions with some operators, but that is not systematic engagement. We have been looking to engage more in person at a conference level, however, that was not possible last year. Regarding our members, there is more activity with outreach to ship-owners/operators, ports and finance, but I am not privy to that commercial activity.

Tell us more on the IWSA goals?

As with most markets, IWSA aims to increase the amount of information available to actors in the region through reports, direct meetings, and conferences. This increased knowledge base will further support our members’ efforts to introduce their technology solutions. On the technology development side, we are also looking for funding and support for our Wind Propulsion Accelerator program. It entails the development of centres worldwide; a test fleet of various sizes/types of vessel to reduce the barriers for testing, and delivering new models of wind propulsion systems to market and finally a low cost/interest incubation and installation fund to aid early market uptake. Engagement with the program is one of the association’s primary interest and it can include testing platforms, yards interested in new technology testing and installation market, financial entities from State/sovereign funds to social/foundation funders, and commercial investors.

On the shipbuilding industry side, we want to see yards adding wind propulsion systems to their standard equipment lists and also engaging with class and manufacturers to understand what is available and what credible systems are in the pipeline. All major class societies now have wind-assist guidelines and primary wind guidance also available. BV, Class NK and ABS are all members of IWSA.

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