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16 Alexander Saverys, Euronav and Compagnie Maritime Belge

Chief executive has been pioneering the development of zero-carbon shipping for longer than most, but with the tanker company now under his control, he is ready to make his vision of the future a reality

The battle for Euronav was always about more than just the fate of a single company; it was about two very different competing visions of the future of shipping

TALKING about what the shipping company of the future looks like — and actually creating it — are two entirely different things.

Alexander Saverys’ boardroom battle with John Fredriksen and the former management of Euronav has been a bruising experience for all concerned; but what comes out of it has the potential to catalyse real change in the industry.

This was always about more than the fate of a single tanker company.

Fredriksen’s legendary pursuit of profit and deals — ideally at the expense of someone publicly and painfully losing — is the stuff of legend.

Yet his traditional fist-thumping tycoon status does not exactly put him at the forefront of an industry rapidly reforming and plotting a course to a digitally integrated net-zero future.

Saverys, however, has a very different view of the world. He sees a well-capitalised company like Euronav driving innovation and accelerating access to the zero-carbon molecules that shipping needs to power a radically different industry than the one Fredriksen — and those of his era — forged.

Fredriksen and Saverys will now go their separate ways — and, in doing so, provide the industry with a live test of two very different visions of the future of shipping.

The 'deal’ took longer than anyone would have liked, but Fredriksen’s exit, along with 24 tankers, leaves Saverys at the helm of both Euronav and Compagnie Maritime Belge, with $2.34bn to finally start transforming the company.

Anyone still unclear on the direction of travel need only look at what Saverys has achieved back at CMB and its clean-tech affiliate CMB.Tech, where he has been pioneering the push into hydrogen and ammonia for years. 

Where others were content to drive for the transitional benefits of liquefied natural gas, he leapfrogged direct to the end game via ammonia engine development and hydrogen production, notably launching Africa’s first green hydrogen refuelling station in September 2023.

And he is not about to get sidetracked by methanol, like so many of his peers. In his view, entering into a multi-billion-dollar methanol adventure will only delay the true maritime decarbonisation required and squander much-needed cash, like the industry did — and is still doing — on LNG-fuelled ships and scrubbers.

Green hydrogen for small ships and green ammonia for large ships are the immediate future — at least until nuclear power can be deployed on ships, he argues.

Saverys is a born optimist: how else would he have survived the past 18 months?

He sees a clear willingness from his customers to look into low-carbon solutions, a clear availability of capital wanting to invest, and he says the technology is either already available, or there is at now a credible pathway to it.

Yet he is also a pragmatic realist and knows there is work to be done outside of his immediate sphere of influence.

“What we are lacking is availability of fuel in large quantities — and that's where I think our industry will have to focus its attention and work with others to accelerate the molecules that we'll need to provide our vessels with clean solutions in the coming years,” he explains.

Time to watch this space for 2024’s Top 100 list.

However fast Saverys has been able to move with CMB to this point, he is promising a supercharged version of the progress now that he has unleashed Euronav to help him realise his vision.

Saverys also appeared in the Top 100 in 20202021 and 2022. The Saverys family appeared in the Top 100 in 20112012201320142015201620172018 and 2019


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