An exceptional journey in exceptional times

Janina Marie Laurent shares her exciting journey to the new workplace.

Janina Marie Laurent
Janina Marie Laurent

Iakwe from the Marshall Islands!

That’s how you greet people here, 13,000 kilometres from Germany. Getting to my workplace was a real adventure. I travelled part of the way – from Hawaii to Majuro, the capital of the country – on a cargo sailing ship. During the pandemic, this was the only option; all flights to the island nation had been cancelled. The sailing ship was built in Bremen in 1952 and had been used as a ferry between Hawaii and ­Kiribati before now being deployed in the Marshall Islands. A proper two-master, like you see in the pirate films.
The advantage of this traditional means of transport is that its greenhouse gas ­emissions are minimal. For the Marshall Islands, a state spread across more than 1,000 islands, it is an ideal way of getting around – for goods and for people. My job is to support the government in developing solutions for low-emission shipping. This country has the third-largest shipping register in the world. As in other regions of the globe, a cargo sailing ship can be a useful alternative to ships powered by ­internal combustion engines.
The government is very interested in climate-friendly solutions because the land lies no more than two metres above sea level. Shoreline reinforcement has already had to be put in place to prevent damage from heavy rainfall, rising sea levels and ever more frequent flooding. GIZ is also supporting Marshall Islands’ presence at the International Maritime Organization. The country already has a reputation there as being a strong advocate for climate action. In addition, we are training canoe builders so that they can pass on their knowledge as trainers. They are carrying on the age-old tradition of canoe building while at the same time offering an excellent alternative to motorised boats used for fishing and transportation between the islands.

The only drawback of this location that I can think of is the lack of fresh fruit. Fruit doesn’t grow on the atoll – it has to be imported. The staple food is fish, which is cooked in very tasty ways. I’m really enjoying my work and living on the Marshall ­Islands.

Best regards,

Janina Marie Laurent

akzente 02/21