Just a week after unveiling Athens as the next location of the Global Maritime Forum, its chairman Jan Dieleman visited the Greek capital on Thursday to receive a prize for his contributions to shipping.

Dieleman, better known as the head of Cargill Ocean Transportation, expressed some surprise at the honour.

“If you had asked me five years ago, would I get a sustainability award handed to me in Greece, I would probably have made a little bit of a funny face,” he said musing, upon receiving the Capital Link’s Maritime Sustainability Award prize.

But the distinction ultimately reflected both his love for the industry — “I fell in love with shipping” — and how far the maritime world has come in tackling climate change, Dieleman explained.

“Five years ago I talked to people and they said Paris [the UN climate goal] isn’t for shipping, it’s not going to happen, leave this alone, we’re 90% of trade, we do it efficiently, so we don’t need to do our part — that has completely changed,” he said.

Dieleman admitted that, from time to time, he has to push his weight around a little to keep things moving in this direction.

Industry voice

“Having 700 ships gives you a voice in this industry ... to be honest, sometimes I take advantage of that,” he said.

He said good intentions and virtue-signalling are not enough.

“I like action, not just talking — I’m very allergic to greenwashing ... I don’t believe we’re going to solve the world’s issues through charity,” Dieleman said, explaining that climate change must be tackled and make sense as a commercial opportunity as well.