Time to accelerate

Invisible, closed and sluggish. Lars Eriksson, Secretary General of Green Cities, thinks that the shipping industry has been too poor at describing its challenges in order to achieve a commitment among politicians and decision makers. But maybe it's changing now?


On February 13 this year, politicians, government representatives and people from the shipping industry gathered in the Riksdag House. A final report on sustainable shipping and how it would be strengthened and developed in Sweden would be presented. The report was produced by the National Committee for Sustainable Shipping – an organ that was neither appointed by the state nor linked to the shipping industry. Behind the committee and the report was instead the organization Green Cities, which works for the development of a sustainable society.

“There is a potential to link shipping to community building issues. It has not been done enough. Shipping has mostly been viewed as a single transportation issue and not in the context of a sustainable urban construction,” says Lars Eriksson, Secretary General of Green Cities and also the Secretary General of the National Committee for sustainable shipping.

That is precisely why Green Cities formed the committee. It consists of a mixed panel of expert advisors – people from the shipping industry, of course, but also people from other industries, authorities and politics.

Lars Eriksson emphasizes that the committee makes no claim whatsoever to have made a comprehensive report on sustainable shipping, but merely a basis, a bank of ideas that the industry can work on with. The report, which stated, among other things, that shipping is energy-efficient, under-utilized and needs to be made more visible were received with curiosity and, from most places, with praise. For example, Pia Berglund, Sweden’s new national coordinator for domestic shipping, called it “brave” because it says things that others do not dare to. Isn't it strange that such an adjective is used in a context that is about working towards goals that concern, not just the future of one industry, but Sweden's future?

“Well, we didn't think we were so brave. We simply wanted to look at why shipping issues do not come so high up on the political agenda.”

So why doesn't it? Lars Eriksson believes that one explanation is that the industry is poor at describing its challenges to decision-makers.

“That's how it works. If members of the Swedish Riksdag start to enter questions to the ministers and lift up issues where various maritime-related perspectives are addressed, then this will leave an imprint.”