Did you always want a career in the marine industry?
Yes, as an amateur sailor, and being Dutch, I have always loved the water and ships. However, I actually started my career in automotive, then moved into the heavy equipment industry, before entering into the maritime market. So, I took a bit of a detour, but if there is one defining thread
of my career, it’s that the further along it’s gone, the bigger the structures have been!
As managing director, what are the best and worst aspects of your job?
The best is that I am involved in all aspects of the business and the product development. The worst – or the hardest – is remembering to stay humble because our engineers and sales staff are much more qualified in their respective fields than I am. My job is to ask questions and to make sure that all of the organization’s energy is flowing in the same direction and toward the same goal.
What’s your career highlight so far?
Being part of a team of people that has successfully transformed EST-Floattech from a local, broadly oriented player, into an international company with a pure focus on energy storage systems for the maritime and mobile land-based markets. We have done so without losing our down-to-earth and technology-driven mentality.
What do the next five years hold for you and your company?
I think EST-Floattech will continue to grow, not only in size but also in competence. We are currently hiring on a continuous basis and expect to do so for the next few years. More offices are also planned to open in the coming years. In terms of technology, I feel that there are some areas that will definitely start to receive more attention. Charging technology is one – inductive charging specifically is very interesting; and energy storage technology is another, things such as battery storage and supercapacitors.
Is hybrid and electric propulsion the answer to developing a sustainable marine sector?
Yes, it is! Electric drives are the most efficient way of transferring energy. But that’s only half of the equation. The other concerns the energy source. Will it be diesel generators, shore connection, LNG, crosswind kite power, or something else? It will probably be a convergence of all those sources in the future. However, we are convinced that, whatever the power source, by adding the ability to store energy, the complete power system becomes more intelligent, thus optimizing power generation and reducing cost.
For organizations in the marine world that have not yet made the leap to sustainable propulsion systems, is now the time?
It is certainly the time to start thinking about it. It makes sense, not only from a sustainability perspective, but also economically. We see positive cases in inland, patrol, fishing, tugboats, supply vessels, and so on. Basically, everything that is close to the coast or inland. For the giants of the sea, such as container vessels, electric and hybrid propulsion is still a stretch; however, given their ecological footprint, I do think the owners and operators of such vessels have a moral obligation to at least think about making the leap. Having said that, although electric and hybrid propulsion is a stretch for deep sea vessels, for hotel loads (at sea and in port) and thruster operation, a positive case can be made.
Do legislators help or hinder you?
Neither. In the end, hybrid and full electric propulsion should be an economically viable business case on its own. Legislation can, in the short-term, help stimulate the development of the market, but if we do not add true value, our business will die, regardless of the role legislation plays. Fortunately, we are seeing more and more applications where our technology really adds value and leads to a positive business case. However, there is one thing about legislation that could improve though: we see a lot of different legislation and standards that come down to the same thing but are slightly different in detail. So, I think further integration of standards and more consistency would benefit product development.
How will marine propulsion technology have changed by 2030?
Full electric propulsion will almost certainly dominate the maritime market, especially for applications that operate close to coasts. The main driver for this will be the continuous improvement of energy density and lower cost per kilowatt hour. That being said, LNG will play a bigger role, especially in hybrid applications, and fuel cell technology will be more visible in the market than it is today; however, even by 2030 its role will remain a modest one. All in all, there will be multiple technologies – more than there are today – enabling further fine-tuning of the correct technological solution for a specific application or usage/load profile.