‘At TNO, we want to accelerate the sustainability process’

| Specials U-Today

Jurrit Bergsma and his colleagues at TNO are looking for solutions to the challenges of making the shipping industry more sustainable. He does this as a business developer and a PhD candidate, both for the shipping industry itself and the world in which we live.

‘There is still a long way to go before all shipping, inland navigation and ports are climate-neutral. There are major interests at stake in this internationally-oriented sector, and the desire for greater sustainability is by no means equally strong everywhere’, says Bergsma. ‘At TNO, we want to accelerate the sustainability process. We are conducting research into circularity, smart logistics, energy-efficient motors and alternative fuels in order to show the maritime sector what’s possible.’

Concerning to Bergsma, the Netherlands has all the knowledge, skills, people and stakeholders needed to play a pioneering role internationally. ‘The maritime sector still runs on fossil energy. Many ships use fuel oil and have high CO2 emissions. We can improve this with today’s technology, such as by sailing on methanol. An even greater profit can be made with fuel cell technology in which a hydrogen fuel cell drives the propeller via an electric motor.’

It happens at sea

A lot is going to change in the North Sea over the next 20 years. Drones will carry out tasks which currently use manned vessels, such as the surveillance and maintenance of offshore infrastructure to name but one example. ‘It is important that clear and supportive preconditions are drawn up by means of legislation so that the green business cases can quickly be brought closer to reality. Think of emission taxes and green procurement. The government has an important role to play in these. And strong management of the creation of these preconditions is desirable. In the coming years, floating islands for living and working will appear on the North Sea: seaweed farms and wind farms, of course, which are an enormous source of sustainable energy. With the combined knowledge, skills and preconditions, we can create enormous added value in a sector that already employs more than 260,000 people in the Netherlands.’


‘I have been a sailor since an early age and have a strong intrinsic motivation to make a societal contribution to sustainability. The choice of Maritime Engineering at TU Delft and sustainability was therefore made quickly. I learned a lot about technological innovation, but also about how to involve people in it. As a business developer at TNO, I can really make a difference. The shipping industry can be compared to a supertanker: not very manoeuvrable but once on a course, we keep going. This is why it’s incredibly important to set the course for sustainable shipping as soon as possible, for both the shipping industry itself and for the world in which we live.’


This article has been publisehd in the 4TU Career Special.

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