Working in international project communication is both challenging and enriching. I am purposefully choosing to focus on the enriching side of my work and to present one of our experts, Juha Schweighofer. The interview below will give our readers both insights into Juha’s life and work on behalf of Inland Waterway Transport (IWT) at the Austrian Waterway administration, via donau - Österreichische Wasserstraßen-Gesellschaft mbH, as well as his role in the project he is currently working in, PROMINENT.
Juha Schweighofer is a world-renowned expert for Ship Technology. Juha is known for his tireless devotion to inland navigation-related issues and engine-concept developments in the field of inland waterway transport. Juha is also Member of the Royal Institution of Naval Architects.
Juha, can you describe the project in 3 lines? In words that the wider public can understand?
3 lines..I need a little bit more... First of all, PROMINENT is a project. This means that it has a start and an end. Start is 1.5.2015, end is 30.4.2018. It is a research and development project aiming at the implementation of technologies for more efficient and cleaner gvessels. The focus of the project is on the reduction of greenhouse gases and exhaust gas emissions. The technologies implemented aim at 3 main things:
exhaust gas after treatment, the usage of LNG (liquefied natural gas) as an alternative to gasoil and the development of smart steaming which means energy-efficient navigation.
So how do you navigate efficiently today?
It works like this: you adapt the operation of the ship to the current navigation conditions, for instance water-depth and velocity, in a way that the energy consumption for sailing from A to B becomes minimal. This is our ultimate goal in PROMINENT. In realistic terms, we will be happy if we achieve a noticeable reduction of the energy consumption.
PROMINENT is the follow-up of several EU initiatives aiming at greening the fleet. When looking back, what has changed for you?
The first issue that has changed since I started to work in these initiatives that led to PROMINENT is that the awareness for the necessity to improve the environmental performance of IWT has increased. Formerly, it was taken for granted that IWT is environmentally- friendly but nowadays we see that also in IWT a number of suitable measures have to be taken in order to improve the environmental performance of IWT. In this way, if we improve the environmental aspect of IWT, we will improve the competitiveness of IWT. Because the other transport modes are becoming faster cleaner and they benefit from a faster implementation of clean technologies.
Does this mean that IWT is no longer slow in its cleaning process?
Yes, simply because of the long-lasting character of the engines and vessels. Truck engines are exchanged every five years; marine diesel engines are exchanged every 10 or 20 years. Diesel truck engines are exchanged every five years. For railways, the engines are electrical. And electricity comes from various sources: Hydropower electricity which is very clean but hard to produce, coal, which is very dirty or nuclear energy which is associated with risks. This makes the comparison very difficult.
So what has changed?
Definitely the awareness of the importance of cleaning the fleet. PROMINENT focusses on a technology which can be implemented on wider scales, in a great number of vessels. We are bringing in a technology that can be implemented at reduced costs and allows practical implementation. This can be seen in the project activities of PROMINENT, especially in the fifth project activity, "Pilots", where a great number of pilots are being realized in which interesting technologies have been identified and will now be implemented. Right now the real-life set-up is being carried out. The results will be evaluated in 2017 but first results will already be available end of 2016. I am confident that it will partially work. It is always the case when you try technologies in real life. It never works exactly as planned. But from the failure we can learn what we have to improve and in this way successful results can be achieved.
It means basically that failure is the first step towards success.
Your work package is called "state of play". That could be the title of the next James Bond film...With which James Bond character would you identify yourself then? Are you Q, M, Moneypenny or James Bond himself?
This is a very nice question. I am actually a fan of James Bond movies, my favorite is Goldfinger...But back to your question: I cannot be M because M is the Head of the department, it is a political position and I am no politician. I'm not Moneypenny either. Even though my name, Juha is often misleading and people sometime think it's a woman's first name. She is a very important character though, she supports Bond in organizational matter, books flights, makes hotel arrangements, etc.
But I do not see myself in this role. James Bond...hmmm...we're getting close. He travels a lot, like me, that's already one similarity. He is surrounded by quite a number of beautiful women most of the time. That's already the first difference. I am only surrounded by one beautiful woman and she's my wife, that being said, I am disqualified for the James Bond role.
The only character left is Q. I am definitely closest to him. I sit quite far away from the action field, I have a faible for innovations and I support my colleagues on the field who are almost James Bonds...
Back to more serious things, you are a naval architect, a Member of the Royal Institution of Naval Architects, a famous scholar and a special of inland fleet. Would you have thought as a child that you would achieve all of this?
The Royal Institution of Naval Architects is indeed a prestigious institution with headquarters in London. In order to become a member, you need more than 5 years' experience in the field and recommendations from at least 2 members of the institution. Although it would be very nice, we never get to meet the Queen.
About whether I would have thought that I would achieve all this as a child...yes and no. Yes, because from my childhood, since the age of 6, I have been passionate about ships. I was building ship models from an early age. I tried with aeroplanes, but ships were more fascinating. Most of the vessels were built out of wood. I would watch a movie, see a vessel and decide to build it. I started to make money with this actually. I sold the vessels I was building and got some pocket money out of it. I obviously was far too cheap and not very well informed about the market prices...
At the age of 20, I made a vessel that would be the trigger for me to study naval architecture. De facto, I am not an engineer; At school I majored in Art. An art teacher however discovered my talents and encouraged me to study naval architecture. The teacher gave me a special assignment: he gave me a drawing of a vessel and asked me to make the plans and a model of the vessel. I actually built the vessel out of one piece of wood.
The fascination with ships started when Juha was 6 years old. All models at the beginning were of seagoing vessels. Juha confessed that he didn't know at the time about inland vessels. He wouldn't have imagined working in the field of inland navigation. Today, Juha claims, inland vessels are his fascination. These are far more complex subjects than seagoing vessels he explains. They are working in an environment that is from a hydrodynamic point of view far more challenging: velocity, shallow waters, and a confined environment. These are all very challenging elements.
At the time of his studies, Juha wanted to build seagoing vessels, stay in a red wooden house close to a lake and go after work fishing on a lake. Instead, he is now in Austria, working on the development of inland vessels, not building them, living in a yellow house close to a vineyard and spending his time - when he can - in a wine tavern. He still has plans for the future: moving to Hawaii, designing yachts for rich vacationers, drinking cocktails and surfing. But it might get boring after a while...
You will now have to agree with me that the perks of international communication are numerous and that PROMINENT is definitely a project with a bright future.
A project funded from the Horizon 2020 programme, PROMINENT will address the key needs for technological development, as well as the barriers to innovation and greening in the European inland navigation sector. The project is thereby fully in line with the objectives of the European action programme NAIADES-II. PROMINENT is ultimately aimed at providing solutions which make inland navigation as competitive as road transport in terms of air pollutant emissions by 2020 and beyond. In parallel PROMINENT aims to further decrease the energy consumption and carbon footprint of IWT, an area where IWT has already a strong advantage compared to road transport.
More here: http://www.prominent-iwt.eu/
Hélène Masliah-Gilkarov is Deputy Head of Corporate Communications. Since 2005 with viadonau, Hélène is specialized in international project communication and dissemination. She is also deeply involved in the organization of international events and international cooperation and stakeholder management.