John Hatley

Director, Market Shaping, Merchant & Gas Carrier Segment, Wärtsilä Marine Business

Houston, USA

14 years at Wärtsilä

Originally from USA


Gas ambassador

When John Hatley is asked to describe his 14-year Wärtsilä career, he finds the words to put it simply: “I am pushing the boundary for gas as a preferred marine fuel globally”.

John joined the company in 2005 as it was an opportunity for him to utilise his broad marine background in a new context. In his early Wärtsilä years, already in 2007, John began promoting gas as a preferred fuel by bringing up the key opportunities (and risks) of the marketplace where environmental initiatives were creating a strategic shift in market preferences.

“During that decade, the stage was set for environmental management as new regulations were reflecting political necessities and demands of populations to clean up our planet. New topics were arising rapidly from environmental regulations and this new 'environmental currency' would profoundly impact all business activities. I saw these strategic changes as paving the way for gas as a preferred fuel,” John describes his early years in the company. “For Wärtsilä, this new path with gas was a competitive advantage enabled by emissions management across a broad spectrum of solutions in the Smart Marine Ecosystem, including gas engines, vessel systems, air/sound/water quality, as well as logistics efficiency. These topics are now very well-known throughout the organisation.”

Even if John kicked off his personal gas promotion journey already over 10 years ago, the most inspiring work days have taken place during the recent decade with over 200 speaking opportunities at key industry events including e.g. Argus, CERA Week, GasFest and Gastech to name a few. These well-known industry conferences have provided great opportunities for experts to showcase and formulate future roadmaps for gas as a marine fuel. Gasfest, in particular, was a unique occasion for John as the attendees pooled expertise to generate answers addressing key hurdles, barriers, and enablers to promote gas as a fuel. “This was unlike any other conference where the normal framework has insightful speakers talking to an audience that is passively listening. Here the audience provided the expertise which was shared in a bidirectional active exchange,” John recalls his experience.

As noted, John enjoys collaborating with people and hence he feels fortunate that throughout his years in Wärtsilä, he has cooperated with both Wärtsilians and various people from the customer organisations: from technical teams to operation, design, project, construction, business development and investment teams. “Having first-hand unique experiences across Wärtsilä’s marine customers and stakeholder groups has provided insights into many business opportunities,” John says and continues describing his career before Wärtsilä. “On the technical side of the aisle, I’ve worked at shipyards covering a broad range of vessels; I’ve for example operated container ships and conducted design efforts as a Naval Architect. Whereas on the business side, I’ve gained valuable experience with a Pension Fund overseeing investment diversification into shipping assets and led the business development of a new engine manufacturer,” John tells about his previous experiences and continues then talking about Wärtsilä.

“Now with Wärtsilä, I am pushing the frontier globally for gas to have the opportunity to blend both business and environmental returns. In other words, I develop the business case for LNG as a fuel.” For John, the times are exciting as he gets to drive the development when representing Wärtsilä in various occasions, e.g. as a founding Board Member of The Society for Gas as a Marine Fuel (SGMF) and as a Chairman of the multi-sector industry coalition SEA\LNG Investment Committee. “I’m also an author of a piece, known as Finance for Marine Decision Making, in the upcoming edition of Marine Engineering that is a flagship book by Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers,” John tells enthusiastically.

To manage this variety in his network, John has learnt to talk the so-called ‘engineering language’ but is also able to paint the big picture in financial frames. “Traditionally, Wärtsilä’s technical prose speaks to pixels with a detailed focus on ’it’, but now it’s more important to paint the big picture and strategic drivers about ‘why’ behind the ‘it’ as the customer decides which risks bear sufficient investment returns to justify returns in shipping assets,” John says rightly. “It’s money that fuels the deals,” he adds.

John himself has learnt a lot in his roles at the customer side and in the customer interface which makes him keen to see if it would be possible to apply this approach even further in the company. “I’m glad how we feel encouraged to take value from job rotation, but in my eyes it's too often purely an internal rotation. I believe it may be even more important to have an external job rotation amongst our customer stakeholders and to gain first-hand experiences on what's important; their perspectives for today into the future as to the strategic plays coming ahead of us.

Indeed, the thought is well-reasoned and would support the wish that John has for Wärtsilä’s future: “We must continue embracing newest winds of industry change and understand, even better, the strategic currents driving the change.” To understand winds and currents, John may be the one to help as he has first-hand experience on both. Owning eight surfboards, John truly enjoys wake surfing, “I have two surf style boards, three hybrids, three skim style, and one foil surf board that allows one to fly in the air over the water at about a half meter height”.

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