* By Kurt J. Nagle, President & CEO, American Association of Port Authorities *
In the last issue of Seaports magazine, AAPA reported on the phenomenal cargo growth underway at Western Hemisphere ports, with new records being set for many member ports on a regular basis. One of the things that was most satisfying about reporting this industry success was how clear cut the subject matter was – numbers do not lie. It’s easy and straightforward to know whether a port has a hit a new milestone when it comes to TEUs, tonnage or cruise passengers.
It’s harder and more nuanced to tackle the subject of excellence.
Excellence implies a high standard of performance, a consistent level of effort and results that are recognized by experts. And while qualitative success is more difficult to define than quantitative, it is no less meaningful to the organization pursuing it.
This issue of Seaports dives into the tricky but important subject of excellence and the ways to measure it, including third-party certifications. Many ports measure their progress by setting goals for more objective criteria and using their aggregated performance indicators as ways to show they are reaching higher and higher levels of achievement and accomplishment.
For many ports, excellence relates to the productivity of its employees and the environments that support and encourage productivity. Tracking things like absenteeism, turnover and satisfaction can provide a snapshot of how an organization’s employees are doing on their collective journey to excellence.
Other efforts to benchmark an organization’s success can center around financial goals, and a great many AAPA member ports take great pride in their ratings and awards in this area. Whether the evaluation is of the quality of its credit or its meticulous reporting of financial data, having an outside organization such as Moody’s, Fitch Group or Standard & Poor’s attest to your organization’s success is meaningful – both for the organization and its internal identity as well as the port’s outside stakeholders.
Third party certifications are a great way for ports to demonstrate their progress and success in other areas, such as environmental performance and safety. For both issues, a neutral expert can provide reassurances for interested stakeholders that a port is meeting measurable criteria and also operating in a transparent way to demonstrate its commitment to key priorities. This is particularly important for environmental performance, as many ports face high expectations from government agencies and community groups when it comes to serving as stewards of coastal resources and improving the environment in and around the port. It is also critical for safety, when a port’s decisions and practices can have lasting impacts on its employees and neighbors, especially during weather events and natural disasters.
Beyond certifications, many ports rightfully revel in achieving special recognition in a variety of areas. While a certification program may be open to any organization that meets the requirements, an awards program forces a port to compete with its peers to be singled out for exemplary performance in a given field.
AAPA’s own industry recognition programs are underway for 2018, and we look forward to robust competition in a variety of disciplines. The Communications Awards program has existed since 1966. Environmental Improvement Awards have been given by the Association since 1973. Information Technology and Facilities Engineering Awards were added to AAPA’s portfolio in 2002 and 2003, respectively. Last year, AAPA added a new program for Harbors & Navigation. This recognition is a lasting and meaningful way to commend excellence in many areas within the Hemispheric port industry.
As you read this issue of Seaports, I hope that you are inspired to think about the ways your own organization excels and how you might track and demonstrate that success to different audiences.