Steel recovery through ship recycling, when compared with conventional steel making processes, produces significantly less amounts of greenhouse gases.

Anand Hiremath, our next pathbreaker, Chief Sustainability Officer at GMS (Gujarat), works with select ship recycling yards, ensuring compliance with the guidelines of the Hong Kong Convention (HKC) for Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships.

Anand talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about the huge potential in the ship recycling sector to implement sustainable practices that not only alleviate global warming but also drive innovation through downstream waste management. 

For students, ships are the lifeblood of global trade, and their end-of-life disposal presents unique opportunities as well as challenges from an environmental standpoint !

Anand, Your background?

I grew up in a small town called Dharwad in Karnataka. I did my schooling in a vernacular concept. My father was a Warehouse Manager while mother is a Housewife and comes from a humble background. I was above average in my studies. From my early days in school, I was disciplined. I never thought of any career those days due to lack of guidance. The only options we had were to either become an engineer or a doctor. Lack of exposure, no internet, no easy access to data, no role models in our nearby community to follow new career goals and societal pressure, did not provide us an environment to think or aim for something different in life. 

What did you do for graduation/ post-graduation?

As a result of my ordinary upbringing, I decided to leave my hometown after 12th and join an engineering college in the nearby district. I chose a B.E course in Civil, offered by Rural Engineering College, Gadag, Karnataka, India. In the final year of Engineering, though all my classmates got selected in several construction related companies, I realized that field surveys and civil site inspections were not my cup of tea. One of my father’s friend’s son had got admitted into IIT for his masters. I came to know about this and went to meet him and get his guidance. He told me about an entrance exam called GATE. I prepared well for the exam and cleared GATE with flying colors and got admission in IIT Guwahati for master’s in environmental engineering. 

IIT Guwahati gave me a lot of exposure and provided me with plenty of opportunities to think about new career goals.  I decided to pursue my PhD in Environmental Engineering and later, I got selected at IIT Bombay for my PhD. 

What influenced you to pursue such an offbeat, unconventional and uncommon this career?

For me, learning was a continuum during my student life – coming from many big & small experiences, be it at school or university – with several teachers and professors who made an impact. And I remain thankful to each one of them, as I learned from them the importance of a strong educational foundation, perseverance and evidence based work that science offered. I was always curious about what next? During my post-graduation, I was encouraged to find my own path.

How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path

Well, I completed my Masters in 2010 in the era of the global recession. We had very few companies for campus selection at IIT. I would like to thank my mentors and professors who guided me to take up PhD at a young age and enter the job market as a product, not as a raw material. I opted for a PhD at IIT Bombay. I was offered different subjects for my thesis, but ship recycling was unique and challenging. I had no idea what I was getting into. I knew this was a new and unique field, and hence took the challenge and opted for the recycling sector for my thesis. 

Thanks to my masters and PhD mentors, this thinking is responsible for my career trajectory through academia and the industry.

I have received several awards and academic achievements during my career.

  1. One among the top 7% students who cleared Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE, 2008) 
  2. Teaching Assistant Scholarship from the Ministry of Human Resource and Development, India for both master’s and PhD Program (6 years period) 
  3. The paper entitled: “Towards Green Ship Dismantling: Scientific Assessment of Health, Safety and Environment Agenda” won Best Paper Award in the International Conference on Ship Recycling SHIPREC2013, Malmo, Sweden, WMU Publications 2014, ISBN 978-91-977254-8-4.4 
  4. Extraordinary Efforts Award within three of joining the Company Global Marketing Systems (out of 250 Employees)

How did you get your first break? 

For my current role, I was able to present my unique academic and Research experience to the team and was able to present the “Integrated Risk Assessment Framework for Development of Best Practices in Ship Recycling” research acquired during my PhD. I realized that I was the only one within this niche industry with a PhD. 

There is a saying, when opportunity knocks, open the door. In my case, there was no door. I had to carve my own door to make the industry understand how my PhD findings could contribute socially and financially. I wish I was aware of the power of networking those days. As a research scholar, you always wear a lens of academic thinking, publishing papers, identifying gaps where we can do scientific experiments and publish findings. I never wore an industry lens during my PhD days, If I was, then I would have carried out research on more pragmatic challenges. My suggestions for the younger generation who want to pursue a PhD, or any research work is to understand who are the leaders in your field and develop a network which can help you to address real-life challenges. At the same time, it will be relatively easy for you to get into Industry because you already know whom to approach. 

What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?

To fulfill the requirements of my role as a Chief Sustainability Officer, I try to keep myself updated on sustainability related literature through different sources that include conferences, various publications and webinars.

There are times when you feel depressed and do not manage yourself and thus, you suffer in your personal and professional life. A good routine is the key, irrespective of your mood on any given day. Developing critical thinking skills, developing a focused mind, developing listening skills, developing what to avoid and what to focus on is key for any kind of professional path you choose in life. Understanding that life is above career growth is the key. For example, if you consider Life as an exam, then the six subjects would be, your health, relationship with your family members, relationship with your friends and society, relationship with your professional colleagues, your financial/accounting skills and career trajectory. If you get 100 in your career trajectory but 30 in health (considering 35 as pass mark), then you failed in your life’s exam. It is important to note that all these subjects are interrelated. You need to have an average score in life to call it a fulfilling life. 

Where do you work now? 

I currently work as a Chief Sustainability Officer at GMS (Bhavnagar, Gujarat), where I have been working for the last seven years. I work closely with select ship recycling yards to ensure compliance with the guidelines of the Hong Kong Convention (HKC) for Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships. I am in-charge of project execution at ground level.

GMS, Inc., was established in the year 1992 in the USA. GMS has successfully negotiated more than 4000 units for recycling since its inception. Today it is the world’s LARGEST purchaser of ships and leads the ship recycling industry. GMS is a pioneer in several areas, particularly green entrepreneurship. 

GMS, with its highly qualified in-house supervisory team of experts, was the FIRST and ONLY Buyer in the world to have recognized the need for a responsible (green) ship recycling program in the three major recycling markets, which includes contractual and procedural arrangements to ensure that end-of-life ships are recycled in a responsible manner. This addresses issues of safety, occupational health, welfare, and environmental protection.

What problems do you solve?

Under my supervision, Inventory of more than 70 Hazardous Material surveys were conducted & 100 end-of-life vessels (of different types) were successfully recycled.

I also work on estimating the greenhouse gas emissions contributions from ships we recycle at yards.

What skills are needed for your role? How did you acquire the skills?

The primary skills needed for this job are program management, stakeholder engagement, advanced data analytics, reporting, and emissions monitoring. I have acquired these skills through a combination of education and work experience. When necessary, I have also pursued industry certifications to validate my skills. These additional short-term courses have acted as catalysts in my career. Always invest in yourself if you want to grow. 

What’s a typical day like?

My typical day requires me to focus on multiple ship recycling projects in different recycling yards. During the day, I am involved in emissions monitoring of various vessels under recycling (calculations) and checking environmental and safety compliance requirements.

What is it you love about this job? 

I get to do unique work that has a significant potential impact on the world we live in.. 

How does your work benefit society? 

I wrote the first and only green handbook: A practical checklist on how to do safe and environmentally friendly ship recycling. This helps in guiding all the safety professionals in this sector to practice safe recycling. My work helps in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the footprint of carbon released into the atmosphere during steel recovery through ship recycling, thereby reducing the potential impacts of climate change in the future. We also engage in safety training sessions. What is required to be in this field? Degree in health safety and environment (Safety professional), fire safety, degree in naval architecture; who helps to plan safe ship cutting plans, you can be an entrepreneur in this sector as there is a lot of opportunity for downstream waste management. 

Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!

We have conducted more than 330 free safety training awareness sessions for workers in recycling yards and directly trained over 5000 workers. Even If one worker’s life is saved by learning from our training sessions, that’s success for me.

Your advice to students based on your experience?

My advice to students is, it’s important to develop good listening skills, critical thinking abilities, and time management comes with self-management. 

Future Plans?

I would like to make a mark in this field (Steel recovery industry via ship recycling) through my research work and through my work in the industry !