By Mike Jarrett (Former CSA PR Director)
Perhaps the greatest contribution to regional development that the CSA has made in its 40-year history is the hosting of the annual Caribbean Port Awards competition.
On the request of the CSA’s governing General Council, the CSA’s Port Award Committee met in retreat in Jamaica in January and began a process of overhauling and improving this event. Out of this one-day retreat, a number of improvements for the 2012 Caribbean Port of the Year competition were discussed.
Ever since it was launched in 1987, the Caribbean Port Awards has encouraged and stimulated best practices in marine terminals across the entire Caribbean and Latin American region. This was the reason for its establishment and it has fulfilled this role for almost a quarter of a century.
Although it was the brainchild of the CSA’s first PR director, Anthony Gambrill, mine was the task of creating an identity for this CSA initiative; an identity that would find credibility among CSA members, government authorities and news media across the region.
From writing the early news releases in 1986 and 1987, subsequent news features and speeches and as a de facto member of the CSA’s Port Award Committee since its very first meetings, I have been part of the development and evolution of this regional event.
Against this background and with 40 years in journalism, I can boldly make the claim that this single event has been, historically, one of the most important activities in Caribbean business, simply because it has inspired and encouraged development of a vital aspect of economic life. By acknowledging and rewarding best practices on marine terminals, in a region dominated by island-states, the CSA’s port award competition has over the years brought attention to the need for efficient, dependable, secure marine terminals. After all, an island-state with no overland economic links with trading partners must depend heavily on its ports and marine terminals for the very existence of its people. In this scenario there is little room for inefficiency and unreliability.
For almost a quarter of a century, since 1987, the CSA Port Awards competition has brought recognition and respect to many marine ports across the four language groups of the Caribbean and Latin America. Many of these marine facilities have been recognised by the CSA for successes in various aspects of terminal operations, taking awards for Dependability, Efficiency, Growth and Development and, since 2001, Security. Of the many, about a dozen have won the top award and the trophy for being the best in the region.
With the rapid change and advancement in maritime industries, driven by the technological revolution of the late 20th century and the digital age of the 21st century, this CSA event has undergone more change than any other CSA programme. At various times in its history, the CSA Port Award Competition has been tweaked, expanded and refitted to meet the changes and challenges brought by the introduction of new systems, emerging ideas, improved methods and increased demands placed on marine terminals. Indeed, the only thing constant about this CSA event is change.
This competition has assisted a number of Caribbean ports and terminals to market their facilities and to promote their development and expansion programmes to a world audience. The Caribbean Port Award competition has helped to attract new business for regional seaports and has helped to validate the efforts and initiatives taken by local port authorities and terminals to upgrade and improve their facilities.
The competition encourages and promotes port development and efficient port operations. It recognises those ports that have sustained a high level of efficiency while maintaining programmes for ongoing development of human resources as well as management and operational systems. Indeed, no other single event in the Caribbean and Latin America has done more to encourage efficiency and development of marine terminals and seaports than the CSA’s annual Caribbean Port Award competition.
Each year, the CSA’s Port Award Committee compares the performance of participating ports. The Committee looks at operational efficiency, dependability of services and at programmes and initiatives implemented to achieve higher levels of productivity, growth and development. A high premium is placed on measures to make port facilities safer and more secure. At the end of the process, the CSA is able to announce to the world those Caribbean ports and terminals that have achieved high standards of operational performance.
Size not a factor
Size and budget are not determining factors in selecting the winning ports and terminals. Rather, the CSA looks at performance, improvement and security. This means that any port in the Caribbean can win the top prize or any of the various sectional prizes, providing its management systems are sound and its corporate outlook is progressive.
In 2011, for example, two of the region’s smaller ports won the major prizes. Paramaribo, Suriname, won for the first time, taking home the Luddy Stewart trophy for ‘Best Multipurpose Terminal’. Fort-de-France, also winning the top award for the first time, was named ‘Best Container Terminal’ in a region with container terminals that are many times bigger. St Lucia won the top award for ‘Best Multipurpose Terminal’ in 2009 and Guadeloupe won it in 2008.
The guiding principle of the Port Award Committee has been: it’s not how big you are; it’s how good you are.