The Value of Awards for Ports

The Port of Los Angeles’ LA Waterfront Downtown Harbor Landside and Rail Improvement project, which received the 2014 Project of the Year Award from the American Public Works Association.

The Port of Los Angeles’ LA Waterfront Downtown Harbor Landside and Rail Improvement project, which received the 2014 Project of the Year Award from the American Public Works Association.

Recognition from the government, community peers and industry partners showcase best practices

By Kathy A. Smith

Receiving awards and recognition from peers, regulatory, governmental and community organizations can go a long way to continually improving a port’s track record in several areas.

“Awards showcase best practices,” said Aaron Ellis, public affairs director of the American Association of Port Authorities. AAPA’s annual and biennial awards programs recognize these best practices across five disciplines: communications, environmental improvement, information technology, facilities engineering and cruise.

“We want to be sure our members are recognized for the quality of work they do and ensure all ports have a chance to be part of a seaports-related competition versus one where they may be melded in with a lot of other industries,” Ellis said.

Awards, whether from AAPA or another organization or agency, also help port authorities gauge their effectiveness on different projects. Ellis says many of the AAPA award entrants comment that one of the reasons they submit award applications is to get third-party feedback on their progress, which gives them an opportunity to assess and make necessary changes to improve a program.

Arley M. Baker, senior director, communications for the Port of Los Angeles said awards are a good reminder to the public that there is a wide variety of organizational facets at the port. In 2013, the Port of Los Angeles received the Presidential E Star Award, one of the highest honors to an organization, for the port’s work in export development. Its Trade Connect program helps small and medium-sized businesses learn about importing and exporting and expanding their business into overseas markets.

The awards also boost morale for employees at the port and serve to tell them that the work they’re doing is beneficial to their communities and beyond.

“We look at awards as demonstrating that we have a deep bench of talented people at the port, people who come from many disciplines,” Baker said. “Employees here feel that awards are positive, personally and professionally, in terms of moving their career forward.”

Environmental awards show the public and industry how seriously ports are in working toward the greenest possible operations.

In 2014, Port Metro Vancouver received an endorsement for its EcoAction Program by Sir Richard Branson’s Carbon War Room, recognition on Aon Hewitt’s Canadian Green 30 list, an environmental achievement award from the Pacific Northwest International Section of the Air & Water Management Association, and a Clean50 Top Project award for advancing sustainability in Canada.

“Recognition can be very helpful in demonstrating Port Metro Vancouver is fulfilling its mandate under the Canada Marine Act to facilitate Canada’s trade while balancing the need to protect our environment and respect the quality of life of our surrounding communities,” said John Parker-Jervis, media and government affairs adviser.

“These provide third-party validation of our work and show the public and our neighboring communities we are doing our job when it comes to environmental stewardship,” he continued.

In recent years, the Port of LA has also received many awards for sustainability and design facilities that demonstrate a savings in cost and environmental footprint. “That’s a big deal for our organization because ports continually have to upgrade their facilities,” said Baker. “The environmental awards are especially useful because they’re often awarded by regulatory agencies or outside organizations that are watching what we’re doing and are, in some instances, our biggest critics.”

He added: “In terms of our environmental awards in particular, there are a lot of cargo owners that also have environmental and sustainability programs, and I think it’s something they can pass along to their customers that the supply chain options they choose are in the best interest of the environment.”

Naturally, awards can also help promote a port authorities’ business. “It lends a particular credibility,” said AAPA’s Ellis.

Parker-Jervis said in general, for Port Metro Vancouver, awards translate into recognition and promotion of the achievements and efficiencies that help potential customers consider Vancouver for their port-related business. Port Metro Vancouver received Top Homeport in North America for the second year in a row in 2013 by Trip Advisor’s Cruise Critic, which highlights the port’s focus on cruise.

“We have industry-specific communication channels, and oftentimes winning an award is a good stepping-off point for telling a story,” said Baker. “I think [awards]are a good calling card for new business and for our customers.”