At London International Shipping Week 2017 in mid-September, during a debate on fairness in shipping, Phil Parry, Spinnaker's chairman, argued that awards shows are more about making money than celebrating good practice, and are thus worthless.
While I understand his point – and acknowledge that there is certainly a commercial element to almost every awards event – my recent experience at the Safety at Sea Awards leads me to strongly disagree with him, as I feel that it is important that the industry has a platform to celebrate the milestones that we pass in safety culture.
Protecting seafarers' lives is one of the noblest ambitions that an organisation could have in the shipping world, but it is an unfortunate truth that it often goes head-to-head with commercial and operational concerns, resulting in incidents such as Stellar Daisy and Costa Concordia. Even general standards for life at sea have room for improvement. After all, it took more than 12 years for the Maritime Labour Convention to come in to force and this is yet to be ratified worldwide.
While the International Maritime Organization (IMO), class and flag organisations, and other authorities are charged with making sure there are regulations in place to prevent such tragedies, it is important that the rest of us come together to acknowledge the efforts of those companies that are getting it right. The SAS Awards ceremony presented such an opportunity and saw 200 guests gather from across maritime industry, including P&I clubs, charitable organisations, product manufacturers, technology and communications companies, as well as crew and ship operators.
Perhaps my favourite thing about the occasion was the level playing field on offer to entrants, as both established players and new kids on the block were evaluated on an equal footing by the judges. This meant new companies such as ARX Maritime, which has been publicly trading its anti-piracy product for a year, shared the winners’ stage with established industry giants such as Shell.
More importantly, all the companies present got to network on the night and thus share knowledge with each other and get feedback on their products from the companies they are targeting.
Having events such as SAS Awards is vital to furthering this magazine’s goal of sharing critical information, which can help to improve safety in shipping. Awards can act as a benchmark; signposting pre-vetted safety products for shipowners and managers, while seafarers can more easily determine which are considered to be the best employers. It also creates a healthy dose of competition in the sector, driving forward innovation as companies try to step up their game and earn recognition for an improved product or service.
I stand by my speech during the awards, when I said that everyone gathered in the room deserved recognition for everything they do for safety in shipping. Every award we gave out was well deserved and I am proud of the hard work by each and every one of the companies present that night. I intend to keep praising your efforts so that other companies sit up, take notice, and raise their game to take safety just as seriously. It is my sincere hope that you – and Mr Parry – will join me next year as we continue to applaud excellence.
Tanya Blake, Safety at Sea, editor
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