Irene Rosberg: Setting Sail for Success by Making Impact on Maritime Education

The 10 Most Disruptive Women Leaders to Watch in 2023 2

Irene Rosberg is a renowned figure in the world of maritime education and industry. She serves as the Director of the Executive MBA in Shipping and Logistics, known as The Blue MBA, at Copenhagen Business School (CBS), a position she has held since the program’s inception. Irene’s role involves the design, development, and coordination of The Blue MBA, making her a driving force in maritime education.  

As a representative of CBS, Irene plays a pivotal role in building global relationships and networks within the maritime industry. She is actively involved in promoting research that identifies challenges and future issues facing the maritime sector. Her dedication to the industry extends to serving on various international boards and committees, where she leverages her extensive network and experience.  

Irene’s influence in the maritime domain extends to speaking at leading maritime events, where she shares her insights and expertise. Her commitment to education is evident in her prior role as Director of the DBA (Doctor of Business Administration) program from 2005 to 2009. 

In addition to her educational contributions, Irene actively participates in maritime-related research undertakings and research-based conferences. Her wide-ranging maritime connections, encompassing both academic and industry experts, enhance her ability to contribute meaningfully to these endeavours.  

Since 2013, Irene has served as an evaluator for the Association of MBAs (AMBA), an organization recognized for representing excellence in postgraduate business education. Her involvement in various advisory roles further underscores her impact in the maritime industry. Irene has been a member of the Board of Advisors for the Panama Maritime, participated in an EU expert group for the motorways of the seas since 2017, and served as the Director for the Blue Board Leadership Programme established in 2022.  

Irene’s dedication and leadership in maritime education and industry have garnered recognition, as evidenced by her achievement of the No. 1 position in the top 100 women in the shipping industry for two consecutive years, 2020 and 2021. Her contributions continue to shape the maritime sector and inspire future leaders in the field.  

Adapting to Industry Dynamics  

Irene emphasizes that for an industry-specific academic program aimed at developing top-level management, staying relevant and up to date is of utmost importance. It’s crucial to remain informed about the ever-evolving challenges and opportunities that the industry faces. To achieve this, the program prioritizes keeping abreast of current and potential challenges, as well as identifying and involving the most knowledgeable individuals in their courses. 

In recent years, and at an accelerating pace, the shipping industry has witnessed a multitude of changes and developments. These include new environmental regulations, efforts toward decarbonization and the exploration of new fuel combinations, the growing importance of the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) agenda, concerns about cybersecurity, geopolitical shifts, the impact of the pandemic on trade routes and patterns, digitalization, sustainability initiatives, fluctuations in energy markets, the need for more sophisticated risk management, innovations in data management (including the rapid advancement of Artificial Intelligence), and ongoing technical advancements in vessel design and operation, among others. Adapting to and addressing these dynamic factors is crucial for success in the shipping industry. 

Building a Global Network 

In her role, building global relationships and networks within the maritime industry is a crucial aspect for Irene. She believes that ‘the network’ is the backbone of this ‘ecosystem’ and holds more significance in the maritime industry than in any other. Irene and her team actively expand their network by staying ahead of industry challenges and collaborating with top players in the business who offer valuable insights. They also maintain an alumni network comprising over 350 professionals in top industry positions from over 50 countries. This network is continuously expanded through seminars, events, and various activities in different regions. Participants in the program automatically become part of this network, providing them with coaching, mentoring, and valuable advice. 

The Blue MBA is highly regarded by the maritime industry’s key stakeholders as the leading program that equips individuals with the tools and skills to address industry challenges effectively. These challenges are integrated into the academic program, which Irene and her team have kept relevant and current by aligning it with the industry’s evolving needs. Many individuals who have completed the program have experienced significant career advancements in their respective sectors and consider it the most effective step for acquiring the right competencies for career growth. 

Bridging Practice and Research for the Maritime Industry  

In the case of Irene, the DBA (Doctor of Business Administration) program offered an opportunity to merge practice and research. While it was a generic program not specifically tailored to the maritime industry, the goal was to attract DBA participants whose research could benefit the program’s mission. The belief was that there was a global shortage of qualified researchers and educators in their segment, and the DBA program could help address this by fostering research-based knowledge, a prerequisite for teaching at the MBA level. Irene now perceives the involvement of top-level practitioners in the Blue Board Leadership program as a means to assist those overseeing maritime commerce in dealing with a wide range of issues more effectively. 

Transforming Freight Transport 

“Motorways of the Seas” and Coastal Shipping aim to shift freight transport from congested roads to more eco-friendly sea routes in Europe. These initiatives establish corridors for efficient intermodal logistics. While challenges like administrative complexity exist, the EU’s TEN-T network has improved maritime operations and streamlined port activities. As a result, these projects contribute to decarbonization, with companies like Amazon adopting maritime routes to reduce CO2 emissions and create a sustainable, interconnected European transportation network. 

Keys to Success 

Irene believes that success in the maritime industry is rooted in several key factors: 

  • Industry Knowledge: A deep understanding of the maritime industry is essential for success. Knowledge of industry dynamics, trends, and challenges helps professionals make informed decisions and drive positive change. 
  • Networking: Building and maintaining a strong professional network is crucial. Networking provides opportunities to connect with industry peers, share knowledge, and collaborate on initiatives that benefit the industry as a whole. 
  • Mentorship and Support: Providing mentorship and support to female colleagues is vital for ensuring gender diversity and empowering women to take leadership roles in the industry. Mentorship programs can help women build successful and rewarding careers. 
  • Stakeholder Partnerships: Collaborating with industry stakeholders, including participants and graduates of programs like the Blue MBA, is essential. Partnerships create a shared understanding of the value and impact of initiatives aimed at advancing the industry. 
  • Innovation: Embracing innovation and fostering an inclusive, innovative, and international community is crucial for driving progress in the maritime field. It allows professionals to adapt to changing industry dynamics and seize opportunities for growth. 

Irene highlights the importance of working for an organization that supports these principles and provides the freedom to innovate, as it is essential for the success of programs like the Blue MBA and their contributions to the maritime industry. 

Vision for Gender Equality and Diversity in the Maritime Industry 

Irene acknowledges the undeniable gender imbalance in the maritime industry but believes that the ongoing transformation of shipping through new technologies and stringent emissions regulations for vessels is likely to reshape the industry’s workforce. As shipping becomes increasingly tech-driven and environmentally focused, future candidates with backgrounds in high technology and innovation may be favoured for executive roles over those with solely traditional shipping experience. To thrive in this evolving landscape, the industry must adapt to this new reality and break down artificial gender barriers. 

Irene emphasizes the importance of eliminating gender-based barriers and ensuring that both men and women have equal opportunities to qualify and compete in the maritime industry. By attracting new talent and diverse skill sets, the industry can become a model of diversity. The demand for personnel with expertise in information technology and innovation is growing, and this demand can only be met by committing to diversifying the workforce and empowering women to play a vital role in shaping the industry’s future.   

Fostering Sustainable Value Creation 

The Blue Board Leadership Programme is designed and developed to help equip present and future members of maritime company boards to master the turbulence and societal risks confronting their organisations and to guide the transformation of strategy and business models leading to sustainable value creation.  

The global maritime industry is undergoing dramatic changes in the areas of digitalisation, data inadequacy on the one hand and data overload on the other, cyber threat, and security; decarbonisation is transforming the industry and regulators are imposing new rules of the game. Firmly addressing all these topics is necessary to equip those sitting in the boardrooms of shipping and shipping-related organisations to navigate them skilfully. 

The Blue MBA has been a success due to its unique ability to cater to the requirements of top management.  The Blue Board Leadership Programme will take this commitment to a higher level and prepare the members of governing boards by grounding them in the skillsets they need and providing knowledge and learning on best practice board work and corporate governance. It will point the way to how to address the overall challenges to re-invent purpose, strategy, risk governance and business practice in the era of climate change, need for sustainable finance, adaptation to digitalisation and geopolitical developments and surviving in the new world order of globalisation in the wake of catastrophes such as pandemics and the devastating Russian war on Ukraine. All these heavily influence the maritime industry and as a result ‘blue’ boards need to be agile as they confront the increasing complexities. 

Navigating Challenges and Fostering Resilience in the Shipping Industry 

Irene’s two decades of involvement in developing and coordinating the Blue MBA program have coincided with numerous upheavals and challenges in the shipping industry. These experiences have reinforced the importance of adopting strategies informed by rigorous and holistic analysis. She recalls the seismic shock of the 2008/2009 financial crisis, which not only disrupted the industry but also prompted a massive revaluation of fleet supply and demand dynamics. In such a dynamic and unpredictable business environment, Irene emphasizes that succeeding in the shipping industry requires resilience and a deep passion for the work. 

Running the Blue MBA program has never felt like a job to Irene; instead, it has been a passionate endeavour. She thrives on identifying opportunities within challenges, investing in initiatives that benefit the industry, and continuously learning. As a woman in a male-dominated field, Irene recognizes the significance of building expertise, maintaining professionalism, and embracing her identity as a woman. She has never seen her gender as merely a statistical checkbox but as a part of her identity, and she strives to achieve success based on merit and knowledge. Irene’s journey in the shipping industry serves as an inspiring example of dedication, resilience, and a commitment to continuous learning and professional growth.   

Empowering Future Maritime Leaders 

Irene is deeply passionate about the shipping industry, recognizing its historical significance and its crucial role in global trade and commerce. When she was entrusted with the responsibility of leading a program, she felt a sense of excitement and privilege. The program aims to nurture the next generation of CEOs and top-level management professionals for an industry that handles nearly 90% of the world’s commodities. 

Irene saw this opportunity as a platform to address the challenges faced by the shipping industry. Her goal was to create an academic program that combines practical experience with academic knowledge. By doing so, the program can equip senior executives with the necessary management and leadership skills to excel in the dynamic and cyclical shipping sector. This initiative reflects Irene’s commitment to driving positive change in an industry that plays a pivotal role in our daily lives. 


“Irene works tirelessly and passionately towards the goal of building and developing the best talent pool in the maritime sector. I have had the pleasure of engaging with Irene over the years in her pursuit of securing students to The Blue MBA at CSB Executive. And last year she was instrumental in the design work and eventually the launch of the new Blue Board Program at CBS Executive which was kick-off funded by The Danish Maritime Fund. Irene is a true maritime leader.”- Lotte Lundberg, Managing Director, Danish Maritime Fund  

“Irene Rosberg is a true role model for the Blue Denmark, and I dare say a large part of the global shipping industry through her tireless work to educate maritime leaders to achieve excellence in our industry. She has been setting a strong footprint with the Blue MBA program which continues to attract maritime students from all the important maritime hubs in the world. And she has put a strong focus on attracting female students to the Blue MBA in order to secure a better pipeline of future female maritime leaders.”– Anne H. Steffensen, Director General, Danish Shipping 

“Irene is a guiding light in the realm of shipping education, a profound reservoir of industry wisdom, who through her wide shipping network and in-depth shipping knowledge charts the course to success for all the MBA graduates.”- Saunak Rai, Head of FueLNG | Chairman, TC for Bunkering (Cryogenic and Gaseous Fuel), Singapore  

“Irene is a leader with strong interpersonal skills that all top global shipping players yearn to have. From being head-hunted to lead the Blue MBA over two decades ago to make it the most prestigious and sought-after programme through sheer resilience, adaptability and delivery is no mean feat. From handling her students with constant care to networking across the globe to a re-defined level, Irene has exceeded all expectations, as she takes her role personally, to create a win-win proposition. The role she played in shaping my Blue MBA journey helped transform me as we made ‘many firsts’ as the programme received acclamation at global award functions in 2019-20. Whilst CBS is today lucky to have her, I conclude that she would be an asset to any other organisation/board that aims to create value through new interventions.”- Prashant Widge, Head of Public Affairs, South Asia at Maersk | Driving customer-centric intent, investments & impact in trade & energy for India 

“Through her unwavering leadership of the Blue MBA, Irene Rosberg has created a platform with global reach, where the maritime professionals of the future are adding new tools and honing their skills. Irene’s unwavering support and tiredness commitment to our industry has created her legacy within global shipping and logistics.”- Thomas Damsgaard, Head of BIMCO Americas