If any institution is emblematic of shipping’s surging appetite to find solutions to the challenges presented by the climate change crisis, the Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping is it.

And if any one individual captures the ambitious, open-minded but pragmatic mindset required to shift an industry prone to chronic inertia, Bo Cerup-Simonsen is the one.

As the founding chief executive of the centre, Cerup-Simonsen has in three years taken it from start-up to holding a pivotal position in the industry.

Green Power: Driving the transition
This article is part of the Green Power edition of the TW+ magazine, which shines a spotlight on the leaders, innovators and advocates shaping a greener future for the maritime sector.

“It’s an amazing challenge,” he said when we interviewed him for a TW+ cover story on the foundation of the centre in 2020. “I’ve never had a challenge like this in my entire life. Personally, I find it very stimulating and fascinating.”

Since then, it has forged research partnerships with 53 other companies and bodies, with 18 nationalities as part of its staff of more than 100 working in central Copenhagen.

And since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Singapore paid its respects by setting up its own Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation two years ago.

It shows how, in just a few years, decarbonisation has moved from being a problem shipping would worry about tomorrow, to one for which practical solutions are being sought today.

Educated in naval architecture in Denmark, Cerup-Simonsen went on to study mechanical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and at University of California Berkeley, before taking a master’s in business administration at Copenhagen Business School.

He was head of DNV’s maritime technical consultancy before spending six years with AP Moller-Maersk — as seemingly all self-respecting Danish shipping executives do — as head of Maersk Maritime Technology in Copenhagen, where he was focused on driving efficiency.

As he enthused to TradeWinds in 2009: “We have a desktop [container] ship where we can see 25% fuel savings through technology, compared with a standard ship in 2009. This is a real project, not something of the far future. We could build that ship now.”

Nearly 15 years on, Cerup-Simonsen hasn’t lost that energy. Now a veteran of TED Talks and the shipping conference circuit, so much of his work continues to be “super exciting”, he says.