Interview with Cristina Aleixendri

Co-founder of bound4blue

Cristina, Forbes 30 under 30 recognized you as one of the most promising young professionals and included you in its 2019 European list – congratulations!
You are a young, female engineer in aeronautic and now co-founder of bound4blue – Was the maritime industry always the sector you wanted to work in?

Not at all. In fact, when I was young, I wanted to be a doctor and I was horrible at mathematics and physics. However, I was very fortunate to have great teachers when I grew up that made me change my mind and study aerospace engineering.

Please tell us something about your company / what is your main focus / what is so innovative about your company?
bound4blue’s mission is to deliver automated wind-assisted propulsion systems as a turn-key solution to all shipowners and operators looking to decrease their fuel-related costs and pollutant emissions.

We offer a state-of-the-art technology based on the ancient concept of sailing but using 21st century aeronautical technology. We have developed a foldable wingsail system conceived as a complementary propulsion system for maritime transport. The system produces effective thrust from existing wind, an affordable and clean energy source, reducing the overall main engine power required and, thus, its fuel consumption and pollutant emissions.

Our system is the only available solution providing: 1) Fully-foldable wingsails, ensuring safety in harsh weather and at port or daily operation. 2) Extended operability thanks to the rotation capability, making the system more efficient. 3) Autonomous operation, with no extra training or workload on the crew.

bound4blue’s wingsail is complementary to other power sources (such as electric ships) and is suitable for a wide range of vessels: from fishing to large merchant vessels (both retrofitting and newbuilt). Thanks to its characteristics, the wingsail system fits more than 80% of the global fleet, meeting the case-by-case requirements of each customer to provide an optimized turn-key solution. This full adaptability enables the system to offer fuel consumption reductions (and the consequent emissions reduction) of up to 40%, which translates into a payback period of less than 5 years.

How did it all began? And how do you finance Bound4Blue today?
The company was founded in 2015 and is funded both by private investment and public support from several institutions, such as the European Union. Since then, we have received several awards such as being labelled as an Efficient Solution by the Solar Impulse Foundation, awarded in the aeronautics track of Hello Tomorrow 2019 or being recognized as one of Europe’s Top 50 Most Promising Startups by the European Parliament.

Please share some current projects with us and our readers.
We are now integrating three systems for our first customers.

First, ORPAGU, who owns the world’s largest long-lining vessel fleet. We will integrate a 20m wingsail on a 40m vessel by the end of 2019. Second, La Fura dels Baus, a Spanish theatre company that produced the opening ceremony of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, who owns a 60m cargo vessel used to perform in the upcoming years a worldwide celebration of the 500 years from Magallanes circumnavigation. A 20 m wingsail unit will be integrated onto this vessel in Q4 2019, co-funded by the European Union. Third, Naviera Murueta. We will integrate another wingsail unit in a 118m cargo vessel in 2020.

Where do you see your company in 5 years and what is your long-term strategy?
Our vision is to power the world with wind. The company is now working on a real-scale implementation onto a fishing and cargo vessels and by 2025, we expect to execute more than 100 projects/year.

In the long term, we will reshape the energy sector. We have been working in parallel during these years on a particular application of the wingsail system to produce hydrogen (energy) by means of the electrolysis of seawater, with no polluting emissions, at a lower cost compared to current production methods and able to move around the world to cover geographical demands.

How was your participation at SMM 2018? Will you come back in 2020 and if yes, what will you showcase?
SMM was a great experience, which gave us the opportunity to launch our technology to the world, receiving a very positive feedback from the industry stakeholders.

In 2018 we showcased a prototype of our wingsail system. We will definitely come back in 2020 and we are preparing for that occasion a breath-taking surprise!

All of you are invited but it’s still to soon to reveal more details… ;)

Where does your motivation come from?
I read a few days ago that, in order to sustain our current lifestyles, three planets would be required by 2050. Clearly, we do not have 3 planets to make it. I believe that we can contribute to address the global challenges we face by giving solutions that protect the environment while being economically profitable and impacting positively on our society. That’s clearly my motivation behind what we are doing at bound4blue.

What advice would you give young girls nowadays when it comes to education and career? Do you have a message to all the women out there?
Particularly, shipping is one of the main engines of the global economy, but it has historically been a male dominated industry and that tradition runs long and deep.

And regarding the young girls, which represent our future, I have the great opportunity to hold career guidance lectures and give regular talks about entrepreneurship and engineering to high-school female students once a year, which is self-rewarding and motivating. I encourage them to open their minds and see the engineering in industry environments as a positive future opportunity, and also, I always try to show them that there are many diverse opportunities available in the shipping industry and that it’s not just about a career at sea.

To all the women out there, I would tell them to keep empowering women, because empowering women fuels thriving economies across the world. I truly believe that we can, through example, become the motivation for the women to come in and give their quota to the maritime industry. The more visible women are in the maritime industry, the more we can inspire other women to join the sector. And that is exactly what I am doing at our company. On my way, I’m also encouraging more women to join the team, regardless their professional experience and age. With bound4blue, I am showing that there are many diverse opportunities available in this industry for new female generations!

Where do you see the advantages of female professionals in the maritime industry, would you make a differentiation at all?
There are reports that say that companies where women made up at least 15% of senior management were 50% more profitable than those where fewer than 10% of senior managers were females. If women are in the minority in a room that is hostile to them, they are unlikely to be able to have a positive effect and that applies to other kinds of diversity too. Sometimes probably women have more attention to details being also better listeners and, at least in the start-up sector, even more motivated for a positive impact success, which can be sometimes an advantage.

So, are women better for the maritime industry? Is there any substantial evidence that points to this conclusion? As with success in any industry, I think that it comes down to the individual. If it’s true that women are more attentive, better listeners, or even more inclined to prospect, then women should have an advantage over men in every industry. But like any other advantages, if they are not used, then they cease being an advantage at all.

©Bound4Blue