Great potential for research

Why Michele Acciaro became involved in maritime logistics

MICHELE ACCIARO BELIEVES that he became involved in maritime logistics “a bit by chance. ”It was clear that shipping was “part of my DNA” –he was born and raised on the island of Sardinia; his father was a maritime agent and his grandfather, a freight-forwarder – but the assistant professor of maritime logistics at KLU says he wasn’t particularly interested in working in shipping as a teenager. He left home to study statistics at the University of La Sapienza in Rome at the age of 19, he says, and that was when he embarked on the path he is still on today.

“I learned to speak Dutch there,” explained the affable 35-year-old Italian. “I started learning English when I was a child and I could speak a bit of French, so I thought I would take up a language which is a bit exotic – and the Netherlands has always fascinated me.” Acciaro also speaks Spanish,German, and conversational Norwegian. Speaking the language opened the door to a job in the university’s exchange office, which led to his exchange year at Erasmus University in Rotterdam. “I met a professor there – Hercules Haralambides– who was setting up an MS program in maritime economics and logistics,” Acciaro said. “I thought, ‘OK, I’m in Rotterdam, I should do something maritime-related'.”

After completing his exchange year, he returned to Rome to work on his master’s thesis on the economics of ports, and received a scholarship so he could return to Rotterdam in 2004. “Maritime transport is instrumental to world development,”he explained. “But it is an area that had not received a lot of academic attention.” He decided to stay and specialize in the area, picking up second master’s, a PhD, and a position at the university’s Center for Maritime Economics and Logistics. He went on to become the center’s deputy director.

After seven years in Rotterdam, he moved to Norway to take up a position at the Det Norske Veritas(DNV) classification society in which he looked at issues of sustainability in the shipping industry. “I have always found the topic fascinating. I like that; in a way, you are making a contribution to improving the environmental profile of a sector that is traditionally quite difficult to regulate, and so finding the right mix of incentives and regulationis very challenging.”

Then, in 2012, his current position at KLU became available. “They were looking for someone to specialize in maritime transport and wanted it to be one of the key areas at KLU. That made it very attractive for me to give up the very comfortable position I had in Norway and come to Hamburg. ”Sustainability, Acciaro says, is an area on which he continues to focus his academic attention. “It’s avery broad topic. I try to look at the issues from the business, economics and management perspectives, observing how people’s behavior impacts the effectiveness of a policy, or how a new technology can succeed or fail depending on how the company is implementing its environmental strategy.” His recent work in the field includes research into the development of alternative fuels with a colleague from the University of Turku in Finland. He also collaborated with Professor AlanMcKinnon from KLU to examine what container shipping companies are doing to reduce their emissions. They presented their findings at the International Association of Maritime Economists (IAME) Conference in Norfolk, Virginia in July, 2014.

It is very important for academics and institutions such as KLU to participate in conferences like the IAME event, which attracts 200-300 participants from a wide range of backgrounds, says Acciaro. “They are forums in which you have the opportunity to exchange ideas and establish yourself and KLU,” he added. “They are also a great place to network.”

Acciaro is understandably proud of a recent achievement: securing the IAME conference for Hamburg in 2016. He, KLU, and a consortium made up of the university, the University of Hamburg,Technical University of Hamburg, the HamburgSchool of Business Administration and the Fraunhofer Center for Maritime Logistics and Services will organize the event.

“The idea was to have an international conference in Hamburg and we really wanted to leverage everything Hamburg has to offer – the beautiful city itself, its dynamic maritime business community, and the expertise that Hamburg has in terms of maritime logistics. I hope that the conference will also generate more visibility for KLU and Hamburg” he explained. The KLU professor has a close relationship with IAME. The association awarded the young researcher the “Best Paper” prize at his first conference nine years ago, and he was recently appointed a council member, editor of the association newsletter, and associate editor of one of its two journals.

Acciaro is clearly a man who likes to keep busy. “Of course, the work is complex and sometimes you have to do things like correcting assignments or proofreading a paper, but I feel quite lucky because I find my job extremely rewarding. It is something I like doing very much.”

By Jeff Kavanagh