As global shipping enters a new era, BIMCO’s newly elected president – Turkish shipowner Sadan Kaptanoglu – has set herself the goal of gathering as many shipowners around the table as possible, to find ways of steering a course through the world’s environmental challenges, says an article published on their website.
New Era of Shipping
“We are entering an important new era. It will start with 2020 and, on the environmental front, we will, see a lot of challenges. We must be in dialogue with our members, and with our non-member friends, because we are all in the same boat,” she says.
All in the Genes
Kaptanoglu, 47, is the third generation of the Kaptanoglu family to run the family business and she believes, it is fundamental that business leaders should always say “we” and not “L”. Owners and employees, she believes, exist solely for the sake of the company. And this is one reason why she admires BIMCO; the guiding principle of the organisation is that every member has a voice and that it is about the shipping community as a whole. It is all about us – “we”.
Environment Everyone’s responsibility
The BIMCO president is constantly talking about 2020 and the new sulphur regulation coming into force, but, she points out, “very soon” that issue will fade away and the really tough challenges of achieving the 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 will become the primary focus. She also highlights plastics in the ocean as a massive test ahead for the world.
“It is time for everyone, individually, regardless of being in shipping or not, to take responsibility for our environment. A shipowner, a shipping company, a shipping agency, even a shipping employee cannot be an exception. Whatever we do, from a little to a lot, it will count for something. Because our environment and climate are in danger,” she says, and highlights that, for example, with 8 million tonnes of plastics going into the ocean every year and 80% coming from land-based sources, the engagement to solve that problem will have to be very wide.
Shipping Doing Environment-friendly Work
She points out that the shipping industry has already done a lot: the sector has cut its CO2 emissions by more than 30% since 2008, relative to the amount of goods transported; throwing plastics overboard has been illegal since 1988; and the number of oil spills has been dramatically cut since the 1960s, to name a few examples.
Concerning the issue on everyone’s lips – the 0.50% sulphur limit – she considers herself a realist. There will be problems, simply because of the scale and complexity of the switch.
“Even if we are very, very ready, there will be problems that we have to face, because it is not only shipowners who are exposed – it also involves bunker suppliers, port states and manufacturers. There are so many involved. Therefore, I say: be realistic. Be prepared and solve the problems when they appear,” she says.
Shipping’s image issue
Kaptanoglu regrets that the industry does not have the image among the public of being environmentally responsible, despite it being the world’s first international industry to commit to reduce emissions. “Changing our image must be a joint effort for all shipping people. We need to talk about it with our friends, our families and in more formal settings with regulators and politicians,” she says.
Resting on our laurels is not an option. The industry must find partners to find and develop solutions, according to the president. “Shipping will be regulated more on the environment, and shipowners must continue to support this. This should be our motto,” she says.
She regrets the more reluctant voices in the maritime industry who talk of a sense of being overburdened by the environmental rules heading for shipping, as it hurts the perception of the sector, But she also believes the challenges ahead will encourage the industry to become sustainable and responsible, and create an opportunity to improve that image.
Leading is learning
Sadan Kaptanoglu wrote her PhD thesis on “Sustaining competitive advantage of family businesses through co-operative decision making” and her motto of saying “we” aligns perfectly with being the head of the world’s largest direct-membership organisation for shipowners.
To be a good leader, she says, you must be able to learn and adapt. To have a long-term business, the entire leadership team must be involved in mentoring and helping others in the organisation. “It is like a relay race. You want to make sure you can hand it over to the next person,” says Kaptanoglu.
Today, BIMCO has 1,900 members in 120 countries. The organisation engages people from all the main shipping communities through committees, conferences, seminars and via online insight and products.
“Because BIMCO is able to bring all these different parties together, we hear a lot of different ideas, and I think that is why we’ve often been ahead of our time, on the regulation front for example,” she says.
Mentors and mothers
Sadan Kaptanoglu can reference many mentors and role models. Her professional relationships with past and current leaders of BIMCO have been of tremendous importance to her. She particularly highlights the input and friendship of BIMCO’s first Turkish Vice-President, Esref Cerrahoglu, who introduced her to BIMCO.
But there is one role model who stands above everyone else – someone who fought hard for her right to be the person she is today. “If you ask me about one person that I want to be, I will have to say my mom (Atiye Kaptanoglu, ed). I would love to be my mother. I’m not sure how to explain this, but she has a high capacity to communicate with everybody. She had four kids and a very determined and demanding husband, and yet she never changed her course in life. She is a very strong woman. And so she is someone I would admire, even if she was not my mother,” says Kaptanoglu.
Her father is a close second.
“Cengiz Kaptanoglu is not only my father, he is the father of Turkish shipping as well, and he is such a high achiever. He is able to work 24 hours straight and he never forgets anything. He will never forget a name or a face or a story. We, in the younger generation, have come to an agreement, that we all respect him very much, but can’t try to be him. It is too much,” she says, laughing:
Both her parents set the example by always doing what they said they would do – and she tries to emulate that in her private life and in her role as a leader.
“When my father said: every night you will be home at 20:30, because we will have dinner together, you could not avoid it, because he was there at 20:30 to have dinner with us. He was available to us. I know that, for a hardworking man, is such a rare quality, and especially then – I’m talking the 70s and 80s. The mentoring in my family was excellent,” she says.
Kaptanoglu, herself the mother of two daughters, aged 11 and 15 says: “Without my husband’s support, the support of all my family, I would never be able to be where I am today.”
In June, she took her two daughters to see her professor and mentor in London, Costas Gramennos. He told them of the three pillars of success: hard work, hard work and hard work. Today, the Kaptanoglu family eats earlier than 20:30, but everyone still sits down for dinner. The mentoring continues.
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