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There is much the maritime sector can learn from other sectors, such as the automotive industry

Nick Bakker of Netherlands Maritime Technology, partner of the Battery Competence Center 

Please introduce yourself!

My name is Nick Bakker and I am working as sector manager for NMT, which stands for Netherlands Maritime Technology. I grew up in a marina, where my parents had a small shipyard. I was always sailing and busy with boats. That is where I got my preference for the maritime sector. After I obtained a degree in business administration, I first worked as a subsidy consultant. Now, I have already been working at NMT for eight years.

NMT is a branch organization for shipyards and maritime suppliers. Approximately 430 companies in the maritime manufacturing industry are member of our organization. Those companies focus on construction, renovation, repair or maintenance of ships and the supply of goods and services required for this purpose. In fact, all types of companies in the maritime manufacturing industry are affiliated to our organization.

We are a typical branch organization. We focus on lobbying, influencing legislation in various areas, connecting networks, sharing knowledge and participating in innovation projects, such as the Battery Competence Centre. As branch organization, we also take the lead in various innovation projects, to help the sector move forward into the future. For example, we are trying to help companies get started in areas the market does not yet actively focus on. Subsidies are often granted to ensure those companies truly take that next step. Of course, NMT also operates internationally. By organizing trade missions and fairs, we are also marketing our quality Dutch products on a global scale.

What is NMT’s task as part of the cooperation with the BCC and what is your role?

I am part of Rutger van Poppel and Gerard Koning’s team to further develop the BCC’s ecosystem. NMT got involved via one of our members, Damen Shipyards. BCC mainly focuses on the automotive industry, but there is much the maritime sector can learn from other sectors. That is why we are trying to align the developments of the BCC with our field of expertise. It is our task to form the linking pin between the BCC and the maritime sector.

Currently, a lot of ships are being developed that are propelled in a sustainable way. Many ships are still powered by fossil fuels, but the first fully electric or hybrid ships are already in service. Developments in this field are extremely rapid. Hence, the battery is becoming an increasingly important part of the ship.

Ferries were the first fully electric ships, because they have a structured sailing profile. Since they are moored at fixed times, they can be recharged relatively easy. The next step is to use electric transportation for inland navigation, for which larger battery packs are needed. Inland vessels have to navigate long distances against the tide, which currently still requires too much energy to allow for full electric navigation. But shorter distances, or a journey through canals, will certainly be feasible.

Heineken also recognizes the importance of sustainable transportation. That is why they are transporting the beer they have manufactured from Alphen aan de Rijn to Moerdijk by inland navigation vessels propelled by battery containers. From there, the cargo is transported by seagoing ships. These are the first great steps forward the maritime sector is taking. We often lag behind the automotive industry, which is why it is so great that we can learn from another sector via the BCC. By having the knowledge and chain close to home, the transport sector no longer depends on foreign parties or suppliers. It is very important to look for cooperation in this respect.

In what way is NMT helping to solve the global challenges?

The branch organization is tasked with bringing the various parties together and to closely monitor trends or developments. The maritime sector is fairly traditional by nature, so we try to be alert to what is happening outside the sector and see how we can benefit from such developments. Like we did with the developments within the BCC. Transportation by water is the least polluting mode of transportation. 90% of the things we use, is transported by sea. If this sea transport is carried out as sustainably as possible, it is a perfect way to further reduce CO2 emissions and the use of fossil raw materials. It is easier for inland navigation to make transportation via water more sustainable than it is for maritime navigation, as the distances inland are shorter.

But once technologies have been successfully used in inland navigation, they can also be scaled up and used within maritime navigation. NMT is encouraging its members to innovate and continue to (further) develop sustainable technologies.

How will the BCC’s maritime innovations impact the Netherlands?

If water transportation becomes more sustainable, emissions will be reduced, resulting in cleaner air. And if companies in the Netherlands focus on developing new technologies, this will result in quality jobs and export opportunities.

In the current situation, the supply chain has been disrupted. First because of Covid and now, for example, because of the war in the Ukraine. There is no certainty that if you order goods now, you will actually receive them within two months. We were already used to that. By producing the goods closer to home, you also increase the security of supply. As a result, people are thinking more strategically about producing important components closer to home as well.

What parties do you want to work with to achieve success and what are the topics people can contact you for?

Within the project, we are currently developing the battery pack. It is important that parties are interested in purchasing this pack once it is on the market. But people can also contact us if they want to know more about the innovations we are working on within the BCC and how to align the maritime sector to these innovations. It would be great if they could join the ecosystem and take part in meetings. At the moment, we mainly work together with people from the automotive sector, but we are doing our best to get the maritime sector involved as well.

The BCC buzzes with energy and parties are very enthusiastic and involved. The events are well attended and we also use various media, such as LinkedIn, to keep each other informed and to connect with one another. I really like the way we are cooperating. It is truly energizing to be part of this club.