Interview with Teekay Shipping - Shipping Company of the Year 2019

December 16, 2019
Teekay Shipping 1
© Teekay Corporation

Teekay Shipping was named Shipping Company of the Year at the International Seafarers’ Welfare Awards 2019 in September. We spoke to Colin Barr, Director of Quality Assurance & HSE Services at Teekay, after the awards ceremony to find out more about the company and what it does for its crew.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your role at Teekay.

I joined Teekay in November 1997 and served as a deck officer in our tanker fleet for 9 years, before transitioning ashore in 2006. After serving in a number of shore based positions in operations, projects and HSEQ, I moved into the Director, QA and HSE Services role in June 2017. As the name suggests, the company’s internal audit program is managed within the department. We have a team of Quality Assurance Training Officers (ex-seafarers from our fleet) who board our vessels to conduct audits and to provide mentoring and training for our seafarers. The Services component of the role deals with HSE related systems, back up support and working closely with our fleet heads and HSEQ teams on common HSE related programs such as mental health.

Why would a seafarer want to work for Teekay?

From humble beginnings through our founder Torben Karlshoej, Teekay has gained a reputation for being a company that takes care of its people. We recognize the value of our people and the great work that our seafarers do. Those new to Teekay are welcomed in and quickly become a part of the great culture that we have.

What do you feel makes Teekay stand out among other shipping companies in terms of seafarers’ welfare provision?

I feel the critical part of this is recognizing the challenges facing our seafarers and understanding what is important to them. We have conducted surveys to establish social climate, interaction and wellbeing and have run combined workshops involving Marine HR, seafarers and experts from the medical and employee support fields. From our initial baseline and appreciation of the important issues, Teekay’s recent focus has been directed more towards awareness. Mental health and wellbeing forms part of our fleet conference agendas and we produce quarterly articles related to wellbeing such as managing fatigue, reducing stress and mindfulness techniques. We have a tailored employee assistance program in place, hold regular get together events on board our vessels and our team in Manila hold events for seafarers on leave such as an annual seafarer sports day. The role played by the seafarers is paramount. We get very few calls through our helpline and this is a result of the seafarers themselves who create a positive environment, interact and look after one another and have their own great wellbeing practices on board.

© Teekay Corporation

Our judges were impressed by your trial of a new facial recognition tool. Tell us more about that!

The facial recognition tool is an initiative developed by Teekay’s tanker fleet, which assists our seafarers with managing their hours of work and rest on board. There are a number strategically placed terminals on the vessels that the seafarers use to register when they start and end their work periods through facial recognition. There are a number of advantages to the software including the electronic tracking of work hours, increased accuracy and proactive warnings of potential non-compliant periods.

What effect has winning the Shipping Company of the Year award had on the company?

Teekay are very proud to have won the Shipping Company of the Year award from ISWAN and what makes it even more meaningful is that after the initial shortlisting by an expert panel, the final decision of the winning company was made by a panel of independent seafarers. This has definitely been inspirational for all of us at Teekay.

Why is the role of shipping companies so important in seafarers’ welfare?

Seafarers face a unique set of challenges including extended periods away from their loved ones, isolation and often interrupted sleep patterns. Despite this and the implementation of legislation such as the Maritime Labour Convention, mental health related problems have continued to increase over the past few years in the industry (IMO, UK P&I Club). It is therefore important for actions to be taken to address this and for seafarers to return home safely and in good health to their families at the end of their contract. A good work environment and better mental health and wellbeing can help achieve this. There are a lot of things that can be done to improve mental health which are not costly, such as utilizing the awareness programs, literature and services provided through organizations such as ISWAN. There are likely to be added benefits to companies putting in place initiatives to improve welfare and wellbeing such as improved morale and camaraderie, improved decision making, less repatriation costs, less injuries and even increased productivity too.

What plans does Teekay have for the future?

Teekay’s approach to mental health is long term. Mental health is not just a campaign but an ongoing journey and part of our sustainability as an organization. We continue to plan, assess and monitor and put in place further initiatives going forward.

For more information about Teekay Shipping, visit

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