Bunkerspot caught up with Kimberly Westmoreland, Director for Global Fuel Procurement at Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd (RCCL), en route to her Maritime Week Americas panel discussion on fuel quality issues.
Are you very aware of your unusual position as a high-ranking professional in a traditional male-dominated industry?
I can tell you I was more aware when I first started eight years ago, however today I think it is increasingly unusual to not see a woman sitting at the table with me, in one capacity or another. Now, more than ever, women are breaking down stereotypes and truly making waves in male-dominated sectors. It’s encouraging to see a greater presence of females in the bunker industry - with seven females on my team, I would like to think we are contributing to that wave. Oil and shipping are two very male-dominated industries – our work resides right about where they collide, and I absolutely love it.
I am often asked if I have an engineering background – I do not. I graduated in Finance. So I owe a great deal to the industry professionals I work next to everyday. I’ve been here eight years now, having started as an intern with RCCL. Hard work, drive and a little bit of luck has gotten me to where I am today. I don’t want a cookie cutter job in a cookie cutter industry and as long as it remains challenging, it will work for me. I learn something every day because the industry is changing day by day.
Was the global element of the role part of your attraction to the shipping world?
I love travelling, and there is tremendous value in travelling to the ports where we bunker; you can’t beat seeing the operation for yourself – where the ship will be fuelled, and how it all plays out. We bunker in 144 ports around the world and my team operates 57 vessels. We get to travel the world and experience first-hand how different countries operate.
I like to visit our more strategic ports – to see what our operations look like, understand where the risks lie and to see how it all flows. Seeing things first hand gives you a much greater perspective. I’m able to have a different conversation than I would have on the phone, or over email; you gain better perspective, the networking is better, quality information gets shared and this helps our operations become more efficient.
Recently, the media has been busy whipping up a storm around the concept of fitting scrubbers to clean exhaust gas. What were the choices made by RCCL?
We are supporting the technology and have been supporting it for the last five years, gearing up for 2020. Our scrubbers are hybrid – meaning they have the capability to operate in open and closed loop. And that was a really good investment and good foresight from the engineers in our company. Considering the forward direction that environmental awareness is taking, and the [policy] restrictions that are coming into play with the wash water, the investment in more environmentally conscious hybrid scrubbers has been a sound one.
RCCL’s decision to use scrubbers allows our [equipped] fleet to continue to operate using today’s marine fuels while meeting all current and known future environmental regulations. By maintaining our current fuel mix through 2020+, we are better positioned to weather the market volatility and fuel cost increases expected throughout the shipping industry after the regulations kick in. The mix in fuel portfolios for the majority of industry consumers will change significantly and those who have already invested in emission abatement technology will be best placed to purchase and consume the discounted fuel oil left in the market.
Is environmental awareness the new filter through which all shipping companies are making their major investment decisions now?
I think that taking steps towards burning cleaner fuels is the direction that every company needs to take. Here at RCCL, we are very environmentally conscious and are mindful to look at the overall impact that our operations have. We understand that the world looks at multiple emissions - some that are more locally focused (NOx, SOx, PM) and one that is directly globally focused (CO2). Understanding this, we try to look at the full picture and make sure what we do is not overall more impactful. It’s not just the sulphur or the NOx – it’s the greenhouse emissions, the carbon footprint – we look at everything.
We also look at sustainability models. When we explored LNG years ago we concluded that yes, LNG is a much cleaner burning fuel; however, deploying a large vessel using this fuel when the most reliable infrastructure at the time was trucking proved unsustainable. How much more carbon are we putting into the environment by having a constant turnaround of trucks driving on the road? We need to be honest and say, ‘you know what?’, it’s not a sustainable option, yet. We look back into the supply chain of the fuel to make sure it is sustainable – or as sustainable as it can be right now.
Are you looking forward to Maritime Week Americas 2019?
I’m so pleased MWA is taking place in Fort Lauderdale rather than Miami! Fort Lauderdale has a more relaxed pace for networking and hanging out, whereas Miami can be quite hectic. Fort Lauderdale has the right balance of chill – but you can still have a great atmosphere for networking and discussions and visit some really good restaurants after. There will be lots to talk about, and MWA will be a great place to do it.
Kimberly will be appearing on the panel discussion for IMO 2020: Fuel Quality Issues at Maritime Week Americas 2019 on Wednesday, 22 May.