Meet Alex Founder of PROJECT FORWARD, a Joint Development Project to combat global ship emissions by promoting the adoption of liquefied natural gas as a marine fuel which was conceived in 2013.
Alex pursued innovation in the fields of shipbuilding and environmental technology and has sponsored a number of philanthropic events, including donations for natural disasters and conservation of wildlife.
Why did you decide to go into the field of sustainability, and what do you want to change in your industry?
I love nature. I love the oceans. I love this Earth and all its life. I was privileged to have made a successful exit from “old shipping” which gave me the luxury of being able to think outside the box. Shipping is a global industry with a global footprint and already before my exit I had decided that I wanted to make a meaningful impact in improving the environmental footprint of ships.
How would you define your mindset towards manifesting your dreams, what did you have overcome to get to where you are now?
I consider myself a daydreamer. My mind is super-creative and I find that most of the time I think in pictures not in words. Sometimes this makes it very difficult for me to express myself with words. I would say where I am right now is still “work-in-progress”; I have not reached my targets and I am not proud for this.
How would you describe your work/creative process, and what inspires you?
My wife and I have no children for reasons beyond our control. Those with children usually tell us how “lucky we are” but my wife and I do not necessarily feel this way! Yet, this has in a way been liberating in more ways than one. We are not focusing on our microcosm, on our daily lives, we are looking at the bigger picture, the broader perspective, and this often happens with a lot of sadness: Rainforests burning, oceans getting overfished, wildlife massacred, air, earth, and seas all polluted beyond recognition… We often find ourselves asking, would we like to bring children in this world…? The ancient Athenian Oath of “leaving this Earth better than you found it” is what inspires me. In fact, it has become my motto in life.
Tell us about a project that didn't work - What did you
learn and what was the positive side of it?
Forward Ships. Our own patented design for a cargo ship, that with existing machinery and technology we have managed to improve tremendously its hydrodynamic efficiency, simplified its engine room by reducing the number of moving parts, and increased its safety margins tremendously by introducing unheard-of redundancies in propulsion. These all resulted in a phenomenal reduction in the carbon footprint and very, very impressive economies.
I personally allocated tremendous energy and substantial financial resources to bringing this to reality. I literally crisscrossed the Earth, been invited (still am) as a speaker to over a hundred and fifty conferences, met with industry leaders, investors, politicians, industry bodies, and all of this to no avail. Yes, a humbling experience like this does indeed teach you a lesson; how industry can resist change even if your project makes obvious financial sense.
The positive side is that I have raised awareness. Who knows, maybe one day there will be someone who may recognize this but who cares about that.
What Advice Would You Give To Someone Wanting To Enter The Industry?
Be sure this is what you really want. Be prepared as you may be fighting windmills... If you are ready for that give it your all and if not then make a meaningful impact there where it is easier. Even if it is your neighborhood. It is all those “little changes” those “little things”; if everyone’s behavior changes, this will make a huge impact in the end. Chose the path of least resistance and you will succeed. Do not waste your most precious commodity: time.
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