After 12 years as Lubmarine’s Marketing Director, Serge Dal Farra is setting course on a new adventure within the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping, helping develop Green Shipping Corridors.
In this interview, Serge looks back on his time within Lubmarine’s marketing team and recounts some of his fondest memories and achievements along with some of the challenges he and his colleagues faced along the way.
You have been the Marketing Director at Lubmarine for the last 12 years. How did you arrive at the role?
I have always had a passion for shipping and for the ocean, so I followed this and started my career as a Merchant Marine Officer with Master Mariner dual graduation deck and engine. After graduation I worked as an engineer and deck officer predominantly on container ships and Ro-Ro vessels.
Shipping reflects what is going on in the world and it is something I remain very passionate about today.
After a few years at sea, my wife and I wanted to start a family, so I decided to leave travelling the oceans. It was at this point in the 1990’s that I joined TotalEnergies.
I enjoyed several different sales positions within different industrial lubricants divisions, as Sales Representative, Sales Director and as Managing Director of an affiliate.
But then, in 2011 I was invited to take the role of Marketing Director at Lubmarine – which was a completely new role for me. My marine background had been spotted by Lubmarine’s management at that time. Norbert Schieren who was General Manager at that time knew I was a former seafarer and salesman and recruited me in the belief that former seafarers can make a difference to the team.
Having a shipping background undoubtedly helped as I was able to offer a perspective from the industry and I was able to understand the challenges our shipping customers faced. But with no specific marketing background before arriving at Lubmarine I was delighted that the team were also able to support me with their expertise.
You’ve overseen a lot in those 12 years as Marketing Director – are there some key lasting impressions?
It has been a fantastic 12 years at Lubmarine and I have been able to meet a lot of amazing and inspiring people during my time here – from my colleagues within the team to ship owners, managers, OEM’s, class societies, partners and affiliates – and it comes with that lovely feeling that together we have been building something.
I realize that what we have done within the marketing team has helped put Lubmarine in a better place in the global market in terms of credibility and visibility. This is something I am particularly proud of. Our global profile has grown through our marketing campaigns, website SEO with Lubmarine recognized as being in the leading pack of global lubricants manufacturers.
And this is testament to the team I have worked with in my time here.
For me it’s not about personal success – I have seen my role as Marketing Director like that of a musical conductor – without good musicians and instruments you cannot achieve a lot. I have been lucky to have worked with a highly talented orchestra!
One of my earliest marketing memories was shortly after my arrival in 2011 when we found ourselves in a battle with a reputed competitor over Talusia Universal and our single oil concept.
I am delighted to say that the performance of Talusia Universal and the way we have continued to position it as a truly ‘universal’ solution over the years has spoken for itself and it remains one of our most popular lubricants today, having been fully requalified by MAN ES and WinGD during the IMO2020 transition.
But certainly, that was an interesting baptism of fire!
It has certainly been a time of unprecedented change in the shipping industry in more recent years – can you share what has stood out for you in terms of the impact those changes had and the challenges that came with them?
I think when I arrived in 2011, I certainly could not have foreseen the changes and challenges that we would have to face within the shipping industry globally and as a result in the business.
Firstly in 2013/14 – we had the arrival of slow steaming – due to the huge over capacity of seaborne transport. They slow steamed to save money on fuels and to keep vessels in service.
What happened as a result of slow steaming was that the engines started to suffer cold corrosion. You need more neutralization efficiency and more BN to counter this, and this is where we came up with Talusia Universal 100. I think what comes to mind is that we have been able to really show the combination of innovation, agility, product performance and close customer proximity which has helped set Lubmarine apart.
But perhaps the biggest challenge we faced in my time was the introduction of the IMO2020 Regulations. This was a massive change for the global shipping industry – one of the most important new regulations ever to have occurred in the shipping industry.
From a product perspective Talusia Universal turned out to be the perfectly suited solution to support the industry’s move to low sulfur fuels and so, ahead of 2020 we planned and executed a series of worldwide seminars to engage with our customers and prospect customers to discuss the issues and highlight the available solutions and approaches.
It was a massive undertaking but ultimately a highly successful one. From a planning and delivery perspective set against a time of such change it is something I am particularly proud of.
What was also an honour was to be here during last year’s 70th Anniversary of Lubmarine – culminating in the writing of our book – which was a lovely and challenging adventure – capturing the people and the stories that have helped create the Lubmarine brand over the years.
It is incredible to think that the business started off in 1952 with a small handful of vessels as lubricant customers to today lubricating 8,000 vessels worldwide.
More recently, we have supported the introduction of Talusia HD 40 to meet MAN ES Cat II requirements – which again has enabled us to show our role at the forefront of the marine lubricants market.
What is fair to say is that today’s shipping industry is amidst a sea change through its journey to Decarbonization. The adventure and the challenges continue for the team I leave behind as we see new fuels solutions needing new lubrication solutions.
Can you tell us about the new role you will be taking on?
Absolutely. I am delighted to have been asked to join the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping. TotalEnergies is a strong strategic partner for this organization, and I will be joining a team responsible for developing green shipping corridors over the next 3 years, based in Copenhagen.
Those green corridors are aimed at boosting decarbonization infrastructure, looking across the entire value chain.
I am excited about this new role which again pursues my passion for shipping aligned with my love of travel, new people and cultures.
It is a fantastic opportunity, and I would like to thank my line managers for their trust and recognition in inviting me into this new role.
You have highlighted that it is a key time for the shipping industry as it transitions to decarbonization. From a Lubmarine perspective what do you think some of the challenges ahead are?
What I think is vital is that it will not be about one business - but collaboration across both TotalEnergies business units – including TotalEnergies Marine Fuels, Lubmarine and SAFT for example - and more widely across shipping’s value chain, that will ultimately provide the solutions we need to meet the targets laid out before us.
Our challenge is to show our business partners the importance of collaboration and partnerships. Not providing independent or standalone solutions. The challenge is to think beyond the purely competitive landscape and foster partnerships and create value.
This approach is a challenge as it is a new way of working. Our membership of the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center is a sign of moving in that direction.
When you are not working what interests and hobbies do you have?
Oceans have always been a passion and I express this through my love of sailing which I do as often as I can when the planning and weather allow!
Being out in nature in all forms is a real pleasure for me and I love travel and hiking.
I also like music – both playing it and listening to it and enjoy playing Chess.
Do you have any final messages as you leave a role you have enjoyed for the last 12 years?
I really want to thank all my colleagues for their kindness, their good will, their support and their partnerships over the years with a special mention for the Marketing team. I hope I have put my mark on the brand, and I believe that together we have moved it forward.
Undoubtedly, we have demonstrated that we are able and willing to go the extra mile for the brand to be recognized as a reliable partner, with a sense of accessibility, openness and communication.
While it is time for me to embrace a new challenge, this will allow my colleagues to bring new, fresh ideas to the Lubmarine marketing activities.