And the award goes to…

Last month I attended my first shipping awards show for a long time. I admit to having fun – given it was a former employer, I maximised their generous hospitality and made a dent in their profits from the evening for sure; the sore head the next day was clear evidence of that.

There was a funny tale I can share with you from later on in the evening. As I was deballasting some of the wine, I got chatting away with a fellow attendee. I imparted my feelings about proceedings – yes, it’d been a fun evening, but as so many question, the whole show was a bit of a farce given the oft-fixed nature of awards shows.

Five minutes later, glass firmly back in hand, I get a tap on my shoulder. “Sam, can I have a word?” asks a former colleague and high-up person within this firm’s awards organisation set-up. We huddle over to a quieter part of the foyer. “Sam, I’ve got it on good authority that you’ve just told someone in the toilets that our awards are corrupt.” Turns out there was someone going for a number two in the bogs that I had not clocked.

Anyway, we batted back and forth about the merits of awards shows, yours truly as the super skeptical and my former colleague swearing that the event had polished up its act these days and was whiter than white. In fairness, most of accusations were batted away quite skillfully – until my final jab.

“Okay,” I say, “I’ll take everything you’ve just said in defence of these awards. But answer me this, how is that tonight, here in Hong Kong, 80% of the winners are from Hong Kong and yet next year 80% of the winners will be from the host city, Singapore. Until judges are one per country, rather than skewed towards the hosting nation, then you cannot claim they are totally impartial.”

The fact is, I hate all that awards stand for – always have done. They’re too many of them; they are more often than not swayed towards big advertising spenders and often categories are skewed just to present a favoured company with a gong. Moreover, awards shows provide a financial lifeline to plenty of media companies that frankly do not deserve to be operating – too slavish to advertisers, too little investment in impartial reporting. A founding principle of the company I am proud to have co-founded four years ago (almost to the day) was: no awards shows.

As I shuffled out of the event – which I do admit, I had enjoyed – I was chatting with one of the sponsors. He was disillusioned too. “Until you and others turn the taps off these things will continue,” I warned him. He promises me this year’s bash was the final one he would sponsor. Progress!

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. Bravo. They are all fatally flawed. I attended one show where the port of Amsterdam won best European Container Terminal in a year when it hadn’t moved a box; another year Maersk won best Intra-Asia Shipping Line with about 2% of the market. The day the organizers publicize how the judges vote will be the first step to recovery. At least that way we will all know who the sycophants are.

  2. A handy list of those whose integrity is called into question by this piece:

    Mr Gerardo Borromeo, Vice Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, Philippine Transmarine Carriers, Inc
    Mr Arthur Bowring, Managing Director, Hong Kong Shipowners Association (HKSOA)
    Mr Peter Cremers, CEO, Anglo Eastern Group
    Mr Sunny Ho, Executive Director, Hong Kong Shippers Council
    Mr Esben Poulsson, Vice Chairman, International Chamber of Shipping
    Mr Torgeir Sterri, Vice President and Regional Manager for Region Greater China, DNV GL
    Mr Noboru Ueda, Chairman and President, ClassNK
    Mr Tim Wilkins, Regional Manager, Asia Pacific, INTERTANKO Asia

  3. With my natural positive attitude i allways considered most of these “awards” as a networking event with no relationship between the awards and the merrits of the “winners”. These events – like conferences – have become a narcist Industry and we might aswell be upright about it.

  4. Hi Sing – quick comment – as per the article, all hugely influential, important these people as judges, but geographically rather skewed — and also sectorally.

  5. With you all the way Sam. I saw an advert for a logistics awards event in London recently where each category shortlist had about 8 candidates for winner. Nothing more than an exercise in flogging tables at the awards evening to potential winners.

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