Embassies all over the world are using Port Esbjerg as a model to copy

The wow factor is a valuable tool when Danish embassies take foreign visitors to Esbjerg to visit the port. Whether in Tokyo, Washington or Seoul, Danish embassies use the port as an example when promoting the green transition to companies and authorities. “It’s a win-win-wind-situation,” as one of the parties puts it.

From Washington to Tokyo. And a trip to Seoul. While many of the world’s big cities are far apart in terms of physical distance, they do have something in common. They have Danish embassies working for Denmark.

Roughly speaking, the job of Denmark’s embassies is to promote businesses and politics, and part of their work is currently linked closely to Esbjerg.

Denmark’s energy policy has a clear, international profile, and companies such as Vestas, Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Ørsted help accentuate this profile. All the while, Port Esbjerg has become part of the narrative.

“People are amazed when they visit Port Esbjerg,” says Sune Strøm, energy adviser at the Danish Embassy in Japan. In August, Strøm had invited two senior officials from the Japanese energy agency and a Japanese research institute, respectively, to Esbjerg to visit the port.

“They weren’t just impressed, they were very impressed by the hundreds of blade parts, nacelles and wind installation vessels they saw as we drove round the port, not to mention the sheer size of the port,” Strøm recalls.

Senior officials from, amongst others, Japen, South Korea and the US are amazed when they see the massive size of Port Esbjerg.

Embassy tool

According to Jesper Bank, CCO of Port Esbjerg, the port has become a tool for embassies all over the world.

“Port Esbjerg has come to play a key role for embassies in their efforts to demonstrate the Danish energy transition,” he explains.

Together with Port Esbjerg CEO Dennis Jul Pedersen, he makes himself available week after week for tours of the port area, Teams meetings with groups from all over the world and conferences and dinners with delegations.

“Port Esbjerg is the physical product which the embassies can highlight,” says Bank.

And they do. In the USA, Korea, Japan and many other countries.

Ambassador to Esbjerg

“Esbjerg is part of our standard presentation,” says Jacob Navarro Rasmussen from the Danish Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, where he works for Energy Governance Partnership (EGP), a programme launched by the Danish government to drive the green transition in the energy sector through government collaboration with the authorities of other countries.

“We recently held a meeting with MOTIE, the ministry of trade, industry and energy, which is a huge organisation with more than 30,000 employees. We’ve worked with them since 2018, and at our planning meeting, their general director joked that our Ambassador was acting as the Ambassador to Esbjerg,” says Navarro Rasmussen with a smile.

When Esbjerg is highlighted, it is because the Embassy believes the port makes a strong and useful case in Korea. When the Danish Crown Prince Couple visited the country in 2019, a declaration of intent to launch a collaboration was signed between Ulsan, a major port city, and Denmark.

The first task is to convey the compelling tale of Port Esbjerg, which once was mainly about shipping bacon. Then fishing took over, then oil and gas and then offshore wind, which has created a lot of jobs during a period of declining oil and gas activity.

“It’s the tale of an underdog that came from nothing and grew into the world’s largest port of embarkation for offshore wind. It’s a tale worth telling to port directors, mayors and ministries,” explains Navarro Rasmussen.

It’s also a tale that may provide some perspective for fishermen in Korea, who have fought parts of the green transition that is necessary in Korea because they were afraid of losing their jobs.

The Danish Crown Prince Couple visited South Korea in 2019 and a declaration of intent to launch a collaboration was signed between Ulsan and Denmark. Right of center is the mayor of Esbjerg, Jesper Frost Rasmussen.

Seeing is believing

But it is one thing to tell the tale of Esbjerg prospering through the green transition, it is another seeing it for yourself.

“Seeing is believing,” as Navarro Rasmussen puts it.

That is why the Mayor of Ulsan and other Korean politicians have visited Esbjerg for a guided tour of the port, in which connection Port Esbjerg CEO Dennis Jul Pedersen told the story of the port, and where an installation vessel at the quay provided a jaw-dropping experience for the visitors.

“South Korea has a population of 52 million, which makes Denmark the size of a country town. But they don’t have this, and it’s so tangible and such a great example of a turnaround,” says Navarro Rasmussen, noting that Ambassador Ejnar Jensen hails from Ribe some 30 kilometres from Esbjerg and may therefore have a special connection with the port, given that Esbjerg was still Denmark’s largest fishing port when he was a boy.

Visits make a difference

When Sune Strøm from the Danish Embassy in Tokyo invited the two Japanese senior officials for a tour of the port of Esbjerg in August, they talked about size, transport and storage facilities, and Strøm could feel that it made a difference.

“A visit like that does so much more than a PowerPoint presentation,” as he puts it.

With the Japanese offshore wind market in a start-up phase, reaching out to the port is extremely rewarding.

In the spring, the Danish Embassy set up a Teams meeting, during which the port gave a presentation to a wide range of stakeholders: ministries, municipalities and the Japanese port organisation, which has had delegations visiting Denmark on several occasions.

“These meetings are often very pragmatic. How do you cope with challenges in relation to investments and collaboration and so on, and collaboration agreements are entered into with ports intended to serve as installation ports in Japan. The potential is huge, especially in the northern part of Japan, where it’s as windy as in Europe,” says Strøm.

USA calling 

In Washington, Nick Damgaard Jensen works as an energy adviser to the Danish Embassy and is in charge of dealing with the regulatory authorities in relation to offshore wind.

Together with his colleagues at the Embassy and at the Danish Energy Agency in Copenhagen, he is in charge of the collaboration with partners at federal level at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Department of Energy and at state level in New York, New Jersey, Virginia and California.

At the Trade Council North America, the Embassy has an additional three people dedicated to helping Danish offshore wind businesses identify local partners, develop go-to-market strategies and establish a position in the US market.

The focus of the regulatory collaboration is to share Denmark’s experience in developing framework conditions for the roll-out of offshore wind, such as how to identify offshore wind areas, regulatory best practices, port infrastructure and job creation. With port infrastructure posing a major challenge, Port Esbjerg plays a key role in this context.  

The US east coast is densely populated, industrialised and has a lot of bridges, which limits the possibilities for developing port infrastructure for offshore wind. This calls for investment and expansion, which is happening in both New Jersey and New York, where plans are afoot to build large-scale port facilities like those at Port Esbjerg.

“Port Esbjerg makes a really good case in two essential areas related to the development of offshore wind in the US: investing and job creation. Port Esbjerg has valuable information to share on requirements for port infrastructure and how the city has evolved from a fishing port to oil and gas and now to offshore wind. It instils faith that the US can build something similar,” explains Damgaard Jensen.

Interest from the US east and west coast

The Embassy in Washington has also sent delegations to Denmark, and twenty stakeholders from California recently visited Denmark, including Esbjerg. On a previous occasion, Esbjerg received a visit from the chairman of California’s energy commission.

“In California, they’ve set a target of reaching 45 GW offshore wind by 2045, which is some twenty times more than Denmark has today. So things are about to heat up, and it’s extremely important that decision-makers in California and other states get the chance to visit Denmark and Europe and experience the industry themselves – get to see an offshore wind farm, nacelles at the quay and get a hands-on impression,” says Damgaard Jensen, and he continues:

“It’ll have a huge impact, creating jobs in the US and revitalising small societies. Just as it’s done in Esbjerg.”

During the pandemic, Americans were unable to travel to Esbjerg, so the Embassy organised virtual trips where people from Port Esbjerg showed the virtual visitors around and made 360-degree videos.

The videos were made in collaboration with State of Green, a public-private partnership between the Danish authorities and businesses engaged in the green transition. State of Green helps establish contact with leading Danish players working to drive the global transition to a sustainable, resource-efficient, low-carbon society. Including Port Esbjerg.

“We’re witnessing a great deal of interest not only from the US west and east coast, but also from the Danish industrial sector, which has extensive experience in the area, something only a few US companies have, and is looking to form partnerships with US companies. One company to form such a partnership is Esvagt, which brings industrial experience, while Crowley contributes local insights,” explains Damgaard Jensen.

Together with the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Danish Energy Agency has created a virtual platform – offshorewindtour.org – where interested parties from all over the world can visit a virtual wind farm, meet Dan Jørgensen, Denmark’s Minister for Climate, Energy and Utilities, and listen to experts.

“We bring delegations to Denmark two or three times a year, and we almost always go to Esbjerg. It pays off,” says Damgaard Jensen.

During the pandemic, Americans were unable to travel to Esbjerg, so the Embassy organised virtual trips where people from Port Esbjerg showed the virtual visitors around and made 360-degree videos.

A win-win-wind situation

Jacob Navarro Rasmussen, who works out of Seoul, agrees.

“It’s a win-win-wind-situation,” he grins.

In Korea, they also support developers creating a lot of new jobs.

“Four years ago, we had two developers out here, each with only one or two employees. Now they have a double-digit staff, and a handful of other companies have set up shop. There are loads of promising projects,” he explains.

“There’s a market even before Vestas decides to build a factory, you know.”

Siemens Gamesa has signed a collaboration agreement with Korean giant Doosan. Vestas has formed a joint venture, and a lot of other initiatives have been launched as well.

Direct support for Danish industry

According to Sune Strøm, the Embassy in Tokyo is very grateful for all the help it receives from Port Esbjerg.

“It supports Danish industry directly. They help establish contact and act as a liaison to professionals with skills that are in high demand in the global market,” he says, and he continues:

“This is important for the authorities in other countries as ports are critical infrastructure. It makes it easier to make decisions in other parts of the world. With Esbjerg being such a strong case, we can reassure decision-makers. It really makes a difference.”

In Seoul, Jacob Navarro Rasmussen agrees with Sune Strøm.

“We’re very excited about the collaboration. And we’re currently planning to send another group of official Korean representatives to Esbjerg on a VIP tour,” he says.

Ulsan, the port city, is also a member of the World Energy Cities Partnerships, which convened in Esbjerg at the beginning of October. 

“We connect people with Esbjerg because it speeds up the green transition in other countries and may benefit Danish companies in the process. It makes a lot of sense,” says Damgaard Jensen from Washington.

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