SAFETY4SEA: How did it come about that you joined shipping industry and your field of expertise specifically?
Andrew Stephens: I joined the shipping industry by chance back in 1985, joining a marine chemical product supplier – Gamlen Chemicals (later acquired by Unitor, then Wilhelmsen). This was my first introduction to shipping and how it was huge, but close community. At the time I was developing my professional qualification in accountancy, which gave me a sound foundation to further build on in leadership and latterly sustainability
S4S: What about your current job/ role most excites you and why?
A.St.: As Executive Director of the Sustainable Shipping Initiative, I have enjoyed building a committed and powerful team who thrive on engagement with our members, who themselves are inspiring sustainability leaders in terms of their vision, commitment and leadership. The close collaboration amongst like-minded individuals and organisations committed to improving the industry is impressive and makes every day interesting, action packed and exciting
S4S: When you think of the word successful who's the first person who comes to mind and why?
A.St.: Being successful is not about a winner and loser situation – those who dedicate their time and efforts to unselfishly do good, give and help others thrive goes a long way in my books
S4S: Who is/was the most influential person/mentor to you & why?
A.St.: As odd as this may seem to some, my mother-in-law. She has sadly passed now, but has been an inspiration to me over the past three decades – you can be a better person and leader through being compassionate, nurturing, good listener, providing a safe haven, having resilience and possessing a humble determination to do what is right, while also building confidence in others for their continued growth and positive impact
S4S: What is the best and what was the worst piece of advice you've ever been given and why?
A.St.: Best – “don’t wait for the perfect solution, before acting”
Worst - “management know best” – The creativity and determination to contribute positively to an organisation runs deep. You will get the best ideas only if the entire workforce has a voice and is listened to. Engage across your organisation - not just your peer level or next level up/down, and be open to ideas from wherever they may come.
S4S: What is the most worthwhile career investment (in energy, time, money) you’ve ever made?
A.St.: Moving overseas to work and living in Dubai, Long Beach, Oslo and Hong Kong before returning to the UK 23 years later. The learning and cultural enrichment has been fascinating, enjoyable and, above all, allowed myself and my family to make life-long friendships with a diverse and wide-ranging set of great people, which otherwise would not have been possible
S4S: If you could give a piece of advice to your 18-year-old-self one thing, what would it be and why? What piece of advice should you ignore?
A.St.: Focus on collaboration and the bigger picture, with a humble determination – don’t give up on your dreams and goals – what seems impossible, can become possible. Don’t allow those who have self-serving interests derail your positive influence and drive to shape and achieve the outcomes desired.
S4S: In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your business life?
A.St.: The willingness of cross value chain and competing actors to come to the table and keep commercial interests aside in working together towards common sustainability goals for the benefit of the industry and civil society. It has been great to see this in action and reflect on the positive impact of this – and what this level of collaboration can mean for the future of the industry.
S4S: What would you like to change in the current maritime landscape and your area of expertise specifically and why?
A.St.: There is a continuous need to join the dots in the stakeholder landscape and for entrenched positions to be flexed in order for progress to be made. The need for public/private collaboration is an example of this where so much more can be achieved, and quicker.
S4S: What is your personal motto?
A.St.: What seems impossible, can become possible
About Andrew Stephens, Executive Director, Sustainable Shipping Initiative
Andrew has a truly international background in the maritime industry, working for leading maritime service providers, in the position of Chief Operating Officer, such as Wilhelmsen Ships Service and Wallem Group, in a career which has seen him working in the UK, UAE, USA, Norway and Hong Kong. He was responsible for leading and managing business transformation, continuous improvement, integration and change management programmes, drive strategic planning and implementation consequently delivering on improved customer satisfaction, business performance and efficiency. After a successful period in both international groups he joined The Sustainable Shipping Initiative in August 2018, where he is responsible for leadership of the Secretariat.