What does shipping mean to you?
I want to ask the question at the start of the week. What does shipping mean to you? Shipping to me, Andrew Cowderoy, the Founder of ZS Wellness, is extremely personal. It's an industry that I love to bits. I've known it as long as I could sip breath. Some would say shipping flows in my veins. I don't need to look far to find somebody in the family or extended family that had been involved in shipping in a major way, in some shape or other. One of my first memories of this great industry was when we were living in North America. I was still younger than six, and my father gave me a book, a beautifully bound red book on tug boats. This was when we were living in Boston and we had just recently been to see the tall ships as they entered port. Andrew Cowderoy:
We moved back to Scotland where my father stepped into the role of managing director for Harrison Clyde Stirling Shipping, and this is where my journey of shipping, to a degree, really starts to begin.
Another solid memory was walking around Ferguson shipyard on the Clyde during the construction of the Stirling Forth, the platform supply vessel. Which my sister and I both launched during our primary school days. And then following on was the, going again, back to Ferguson's, spending time with the owners doing the construction of the Stirling Iona, which was a anchor-handler bound for the North Sea.
My time at school, I was always somewhat different. I never wanted to come back into the family business, back into shipping. I wanted to go off and do something different. I was adamant that I wasn't going to sit behind a desk every single day, just like my father, grandfathers, and everybody between. However, shipping has its way of sucking you back in. It is an industry that I love so much despite its warts. After years of sailing at school, going off-shore and racing, I wanted to drive the next big thing. Seeing the National Geographic Expedition ship was what sparked me on the next step, to drive expedition ships into some of the harshest conditions around the world, to drive big ships, be a big boy, play with big toys. After spending some time with ASP's Tanker Management in Singapore (2011), learning about safety, risks, the commercial implications of shipping, I started my cadetship, at Fleetwood Nautical College. On that journey to become a deck officer, to go to sea, to drive big ships.
Another memory that comes back is one stepping on board my very first vessel, the CMA CGM Wangaratta, in the port of Hong Kong, and I remember thinking, "What the hell am I doing here?"
Fast forward to 2013, that summer, as I started that year, I started to get unwell. In traditional, stiff, British, male, upper lip, I thought, "It'll get better. It'll get better by itself, and I will just deal with it." However, it didn't get better. Fast forward a few months, when visiting the MCA doctor on Harley Street, after seeing lead consultant, my career at sea ended before it even got started, a career in the shipping industry, a career at sea is ended due to my health. Fast forward, again, to 2017. After spending time in risk consultancy, the wellness industry, and learning a huge amount about commercial shipping, risk benefits, human performance, fitness, nutrition, learning from some of the best people in London, which is essentially the epicenter. ZS Wellness was founded to educate, train, and prevent seafarers from running the risk of loss of life, or career to their wellness at sea.
I come back to my initial question, what does shipping mean to you today? Today, shipping is far more than it has ever been. When we step back and we look at what's available today in the shops, the device that you're reading this article on, none of it would be possible without the shipping industry, without the men and women at sea. We would not be able to lead the lives that we do today. Shipping, one could say, is the arteries, the veins of the industry, and the cells are the seafarers that make today's life possible. So I ask the question, why is it still that men and women at sea are living in silent lives, that men and women are still being forced, due to lack of option, to take their own lives, transporting our goods around the world. That they're dying of preventable illnesses due to the lives that they lead onboard ships, due to the lifestyle. I believe it's the responsibility, far more than a ship-owner, or manager, to set new standards. Our responsibility in society to support the men and women at sea, to make their lives possible. Which is why we're launching the Well Ship, a standard that starts to set the conditions in which men and women should reasonably live in at sea. Think of fair trades, but only for shipping.
How important is shipping to your life? I believe it would come almost in the same par as water, as a roof over our head, without shipping, we would not be able to lead the lives that we do today. Without the men and women who go to sea, we would not be able to lead the lives that we do today. So stay tuned to see more, learn about the Maritime Wellness Institute, the work that we're doing to support seafarers' wellness, increase performance, and have fun. Have a great day.
By Andrew Cowderoy