Wednesday, 10 May 2006

Tokyo Retirement Speech

Herry, Luke Readman and Moto Sugiura at The UK Club Directors' Party
at the Palace Hotel in Tokyo. Herry and Stephen James retired at the party
and Herry made a farewell speech which is set out here.
Minasama, konbanwa!

I have been honoured to work amongst you for almost 30 years, without any doubt the most satisfying and fascinating aspect of my career. I first visited Japan in 1978, and soon fell in love with all things Japanese. I was immediately struck by the very tangible sense of harmony that exists in this great city and all over Japan and which derives from individuals living not just for themselves but also for their fellow man – and for Japanese society. I was astonished at the care which Japanese take over details that elsewhere would be ignored or taken for granted - shown particularly in the exquisite craftsmanship that goes into even quite humble things. And the way in which in Japan high quality has never been confused, as it is in Europe and America – with luxury. So quality as an ideal can be pursued without detractors, to the great advantage of Japanese businesses whose reputation for quality is now unmatched.

I also found over time, loyalty and trustworthiness from everybody that I encountered. Even those businesses which for a time struggled to survive, took great pains to settle their debts in an honourable way. There was also a strong sense of continuity. I met and was made to feel welcome by those who my predecessors, particularly Sidney Fowler and Terence Coghlin, had themselves dealt with. Of course following those substantial figures was not so easy, but you never made me feel anything other than appreciated and respected.

Of course P&I is a form of mutual self-help that blends well with Japanese thinking, which takes a long-term view of business and business relationships. It is insurance, but insurance built not just on the exchange of premiums for claims, but on a deeply shared understanding of the risks faced by shipowners every day - from the awful power of the unforgiving oceans to the rapacious attentions of corrupt or incompetent officials to the simple errors that accompany any human endeavour - but which at sea can prove devastating. As such it is really a contract based on trust: trust that when things go wrong – as sadly and inevitably they will in even the best-run companies – the Club will be beside you seeking every means to solve the problem and settle whatever costs – even totally unexpected ones – may arise.

I can see friends here too numerous to mention by name, some who have themselves already retired. In that respect, our business is doubly satisfying. The build up of trust engenders friendship and one of the many great advantages of our world is that our friendships can extend to every continent and we can travel to cement them far more regularly than most people are ever able to do.

It is impossible for me to say farewell without making reference to my colleagues that I have worked with in Japan over the years. Luke Readman, now chairman of Thomas Miller P&I, spent a great deal of time here in the '80s, and was instrumental in setting up the Club’s Japan Branch office in 1989. Luke is particularly remembered for his work on pollution issues, especially OPA 90, as well as the early LNG contracts with Indonesia. Nigel Carden, who now takes responsibility for Japan amongst the managers, joined me here from the early '90s onwards, and is also known for his expertise in environmental issues as well as LNG, and has also handled many of the most difficult and expensive claims that have occurred in recent years. He is now very well known to you all and I have not the least doubt that you will give him all the support and friendship that you have given me over the years.

Great tribute must also be paid to my Japanese colleagues, particularly Moto Sugiura, who as you can see is destined to outlast us all. Not only is he still winning any long driver contest that he cares to enter, but he has already won the long service contest, having started with Dodwell as long ago as 1964, and is still the lynch-pin around which the Club functions in Japan.

It is very difficult to say goodbye to somewhere that has become something of a second home to me over the years. I suspect, however, that my farewell will be short-lived and I will continue to invent many reasons for continuing to visit my friends and the lovely places that abound in Japan, for many years to come.

Domo arigato gozaimashita

Herry Lawford
8th May 2006

A Japanese translation of this speech can be found here

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