As part of our series to mark a decade of E&H Marine, Dean Slavnich, who edited the magazine from its very first issue and then served as editor-in-chief from 2015 until 2021, looks back on an industry – and a publication – he has seen grow, mature and evolve.
The growth of automotive electrification, promising a sustainable mobility future with dramatically reduced emissions and harmful pollutants (at street level, at least), was always going to spark similar movements in other sectors. And so we have zero-emission solutions across the transportation spectrum, from e-bikes, e-mopeds and e-scooters through to all-electric delivery vans, autonomous last-mile pods, hybrid buses and trucks that are embracing hydrogen fuel cell powertrains.
Automotive might be the nucleus of this shift toward real-world sustainable mobility, but the sphere that always impresses me in embracing this transformation is marine. A decade ago, my career was fully focused on automotive content creation, editing a raft of tech and engineering titles. In our hugely talented editorial team, we could see which way the wind was blowing for internal combustion engines, so we launched E&H Marine as a sister publication to Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International – which, at the time, was well into its second decade as a highly respected industry title.
The pace of change has been impressive. In 2013, the marine electrification movement could be described, at best, as in its infancy. But as our interesting little side project – this magazine – grew page by page, issue by issue, so did the industry itself. Working on E&H Marine, we were fortunate to have a front-row seat, appreciating the change that was happening before our very eyes. This transformation, in my opinion, was initially facilitated by three major drivers and one smaller factor.
The first centered around industry acceptance. From the moment we launched E&H Marine, it was evident that, unlike other sectors, this was an industry that wasn’t being dragged reluctantly into a new era. Reporting on new developments, solutions and technologies was a slow but steady process at first. But within two years of launching the title, the world of ecological and environmental marine applications began gathering serious momentum. It was at this stage – the first issue of 2015, in fact – that we all got the sense this transformation was here to stay. There was no turning back. Like a gigantic ocean liner, the industry took its time to swing in a new direction, but once it did, full focus, absolute force and unwavering commitment were applied.
The industry, on the whole, must be commended for such an approach – change isn’t easy and, in many cases, the status quo is the safest, easiest and most profitable way to exist. But that wasn’t how the marine world viewed its future. And from 2015 onward, the team and I were reporting on state-of-the-art drivetrains, pioneering technologies and big corporate collaborations on a seemingly weekly basis – not to mention the array of international startups that were being formed.
Legislation was the second driver that became apparent during the first few years of E&H Marine’s life. But not any old legislation. The marine industry was (again, on the whole) fortunate to be exposed to legislative requirements that were forward-thinking, realistic and industry-friendly. Unlike in other sectors, which looked upon the marine sphere with envy (automotive sported the deepest shade of green at the time), legislators and industry seamlessly co-existed in the marine world, setting objectives that were achievable in timeframes that were realistic.
Of course, more can be done here, especially extending those legislative measures that demand ecological change beyond the brilliant progress made in and around (albeit mostly European) coastal waterways and into the deeper oceans. But for now, for me, it’s a case of so far, so good. Here is a shining example of how, when pushing in partnership, industry and legislators can coherently bring about positive change.
The third driver that has propelled the marine industry forward during this magazine’s first 10 years is technology and experience transfer. Say what you will about the automotive mobility scene, but without the advent of the Toyota Prius, Honda Insight and Tesla Model S, the pace of change in other industries wouldn’t have been so rapid. This includes marine. Shipbuilders, boat developers, ferry pioneers – the entire progressive marine movement – would not have evolved half as quickly if they hadn’t learned from the time-consuming, and sometimes costly, mistakes played out in the automotive arena.
Not only was marine a fast learner, it was a quick and lean adopter, taking on board the battery pack, battery cell, electric motor, complete drivetrain and charging innovations realized in automotive settings and (sometimes with minimal fuss) re-engineering those solutions as ready-made, optimal technological fits for marine applications.
Without these three drivers – acceptance, progressive legislation and technology transfer – I doubt the marine industry would be where it is today. And running in parallel to that would also be the state of this magazine. The content packed between the covers of each issue of E&H Marine merely showcases how far, or how little, the industry has progressed, and I’m delighted that it’s generally the former.
This brings me nicely on to the fourth, smaller point: this very magazine. If innovation, progress and willingness to change were not abundant within the industry, titles such as E&H Marine simply wouldn’t exist – at least, not in the healthy shape and form that is lovingly created each issue by a team passionate about reporting on an industry doing innovative and important work. In short, the state of the industry has directly led to this title celebrating 10 years of excellence.
I hope that the marine industry’s next decade plays out the way I would like (see Thoughts on the future, below). But whatever happens, one thing can be counted on: this fine magazine will keep showcasing the highs and calling out the lows in its pursuit of uncompromising marine reportage.
Thoughts on the future
Looking ahead to the next 10 years in the marine industry, I have no doubt that progress will continue and I hope that rate of progress will be even quicker, more direct and, in some cases, instantaneous. One area where I’d really like to see some focus is sustainability out in the ocean. Out of sight isn’t out of mind. And while coastal and inner-city waterways embracing electrification can only be a positive thing, radical changes are also needed in deeper waters. This is where the marine industry is wreaking the greatest environmental damage and where colossal liners with gigantic diesel drivetrains are causing catastrophic pollution, both in terms of emissions and noise – the latter being so often forgotten.
The rudimentary clanking and obscenely intrusive booms that these ocean liners create is inflicting untold damage on marine life, to the point that two of our greatest sea mammals – dolphins and whales – are finding it increasingly difficult to communicate within their pods. This leads to them becoming disoriented and losing their way and, ultimately, results in their untimely deaths. Here, again, electrification has a lot to offer. Vessels powered by emissions-free drives are quieter, less mechanically complex and better for the environment. It’s a win-win scenario.
This article was originally publishing in the April 2023 issue of Electric and Hybrid Marine Technology. To view the magazine in full, click here.