Watco has been recognized as being one of the safest in the industry when it comes to marine cargo handling.

More than 300 Team members are celebrating this news after receiving an elite stevedoring safety award given by the insurance carrier The American Equity Underwriters in a ceremony at the terminal in Jeffersonville, Indiana.

In attendance were terminal managers, representatives from the Port Authority of Indiana, and Watco leadership.

Jimmy Burgin, senior vice president of loss prevention for the AEU, said the award was given on criteria evaluated by AEU that included not only incident frequency and severity but also measured the accident prevention controls the company has in place.

“To achieve this, we were one of six companies, out of nearly 1,000, chosen by the AEU for their safety award,” said Watco Risk Manager Steven Renn. “It goes to every location where we have marine cargo handling — where we have United States longshore and harbor workers exposure, or the loading and unloading of large vessels.”

Watco stevedoring operations during 2016 included: Dravosburg, Greens Port Crude By Rail, Houston TTX, Houston Ferro, Ghent, Industry, New Johnsonville, TN, Vicksburg, Port Birmingham, Pine Bluff, Louisville River Road, Jeffersonville, Dravosburg, Decatur River Port, Columbus, Amory, West Memphis, Guntersville, Port Arthur, Baton Rouge, Louisville KY, and Brooklyn Junction, WV.

Each location mentioned will get an individual plaque and each Team member who was with Watco during that time and continues to work for Watco also will receive a certificate of achievement at individual profit centers.

“We won it for our first year in the program,” Renn said, “and we want to be in the running each year. That means we are operating safely while serving Customers and doing it in an efficient manner.”

Renn praised the Team members and managers at each location for their role in winning it, for what they do every day.

“It’s a group effort, and they should be very proud of it,” he said. “I think they can do it every year.”

Renn also credited Jeff Baum, Watco’s director of occupational safety and health, for developing a safety culture and programs specifically associated with stevedoring, and terminal managers for driving home the value of operating safely. Baum accepted the award on behalf of Watco Companies.

But Baum downplayed his role in the award, saying instead that “it was a Team member win for everyone who takes part in what we do on a day-to-day basis.”

“They’re the ones who strive to be the best out there,” said Baum, who utilizes several strategies including input from Team members to ensure safety. “I’m ecstatic for the Team. Each person played a part in it.”

One of those people was Tim Bass, terminal manager at Ghent, Kentucky, who said it was nice for his Team to get national recognition for the effort they put in 365 days a year. He oversees four crews of 58 individuals on a 24/7 operation.

A Customer, North American Stainless, was so pleased, a company representative stopped by to take a photo of the award to share with his own team.

Bass plans to put each certificate in a frame and at a breakfast or lunch, hand them out in an informal ceremony.

“The guys who go out and put forth and do the work, they’re the reason we got this,” he said.

From the Ohio River, the crews offload barges full of stainless steel scrap or alloys, including chrome, destined for the North American Stainless mill across the highway.

“The more you handle something on the water, the greater chance you have going wrong,” he said. “Our deckhands are hooking barges up, moving around, things are shifting — it’s a lot of moving parts.”

Watco Senior Vice President of Operations Nick Coomes said there’s no better way to value Customers and Team members than through safe service every day — a sentiment that Watco Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Dan Smith said he echoed.

“This incredible honor is a testament to the Watco Team and the commitment they have made to safety,” Coomes said. “They backed that commitment up with focus, attention to detail, and sound decision-making each and every day. Congratulations to each of our Watco Team members who service our great Customers!”

Burgin said Watco has “excellent management commitment and supervisors and employees that know accident prevention is paramount to the company.”

“All Team members are on board with safety and this AEU Safety Award proves it,” Burgin said. “Watco is truly a leader in safety in the marine cargo handling industry.”