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Business opportunities often arise through personal recommendations Interview with Barbora Bechnak and Ralf Skowronnek, Skowronnek & Bechnak GmbH

Business opportunities often arise through personal recommendations

EEHH: Before setting up your company, you both worked for a leading international insurance broker in the offshore wind sector. Why did you decide to become self-employed? What services do you offer?

Bechnak, Skowronnek: Actually, long before we became self-employed, our existing customers were asking us to fill a niche and provide an interface to the risk management domain. As mere brokers, we were unable to meet this request. We now act as the link between the engineers, brokers, lawyers and contract managers involved in a project. The service we provide is not usually factored into the standard budgets of offshore parks, but fortunately this is now changing.

As well as giving advice at the interfaces, we also offer senior advisory services – strategic consulting for investors and banks interested in offshore wind projects. To do this, we rely heavily on our extensive experience of risk management.

EEHH: Why did you choose France and Japan as the core markets for your business?

Bechnak, Skowronnek: We’ve been active in the French market for more than a decade. The first Floating Offshore Wind conference held in the south of France in 2017 was the first time that numerous guests showed a great deal of interest in our services. We’ve been working with Bessé Industries since 2019. Language skills play a critical role in France. International business partners must have an excellent knowledge of French technical terms, especially when negotiating project agreements. A special feature in France is the state insurance pool for natural disasters and terrorism.

We selected Japan as our primary market in Asia. We’ve been in close contact with Japanese firms since 2017. Japanese offshore developments are exposed to additional risks compared to European ones, especially earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons and torrential winter thunderstorms. Natural disasters can potentially be cataclysmic, as in the case of Fukushima in 2011. We can help to manage these risks in Japan. We opened our Tokyo office in 2019.

EEHH: What makes offshore projects in Japan so special? What advice would you give to other companies wanting to open a branch in Japan?

Bechnak, Skowronnek: Japan is a very special market because, as we’ve already mentioned, 100-year natural events can occur there. And project managers have to prepare for these. The ground conditions are also extremely challenging. We provide advice during the very early stages of a project and thereby influence the design of the foundations and turbines, for example.

We’ve gained a great deal of positive experience in the Japanese market. An international company providing specialist services definitely generates interest among Japanese customers. We’re one of our industry’s first movers in Japan, along with larger firms such as RWE, DEME, DNV and Ramboll. Of course, you also need a great deal of stamina – holding lots of on-site meetings and building trust – just as with business relationships in Germany. Business opportunities often arise through personal recommendations.

Attending networking events has been extremely useful for us, such as the REIF fair in Fukushima organised by the EEHH Cluster Agency in 2019, for example. Sayuri Watanabe, Japan’s representative of the German Offshore Initiative, has also given us lots of local assistance.

About Jingkai Shi

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Hamburg is the model region for the energy transition and the Germany’s wind capital with connections all over the world. The local renewable energy sector is thus a key partner for the international energy industry. In my role as a contact person for international cooperation in renewables, I’m responsible for REH’s relations with international industry networks, support REH’s members in their international activities, and help Hamburg gain a stronger visibility and perception on the world stage by using social media.