Guy Platten: from cadet to captain of industry
The UK Chamber's outgoing CEO says he is living proof that the UK's high-quality seafarer training can set people on extraordinary career paths
After four and a half years in the post, Guy Platten has come to the end of his tenure as Chief Executive of the UK Chamber of Shipping with, he says, “a tinge of sadness”.
It has been a period during which the Chamber has undergone much change and modernisation. Guy says he hopes he is leaving the organisation in a more dynamic position and in a good place for his successor, Bob Sanguinetti, to “take it to the next level”.
“I never would have believed when I joined the industry as an 18-year-old deck cadet with my training book in my hand that I would end up doing what I’m doing,” Guy says of his career. He is due shortly to join the International Chamber of Shipping as its Secretary-General.
This high-level appointment is in no small part due to the work that Guy has done at the UK Chamber. While the UK’s position as a leading global maritime centre continues to evolve, so too has the UK Chamber of Shipping under Guy’s leadership.
Advances have been made in the day-to-day running of the Chamber, Guy says, “such as growing the membership with the help and support of the rest of the team, which has put us on a more sustainable financial footing”. New income streams, such as the Chamber’s successful Introduction to Shipping course and an increased number of events, have also been introduced.
On a national scale, Guy has overseen the UK Chamber in pitching and delivering a headline policy win. Earlier this year, the Government accepted a joint proposal by the UK Chamber and Nautilus International to double funding for seafarer training – known as the SMarT Plus policy.
“I’m very proud that we have seen an increase in support for seafarer training, despite widespread budget cuts. I’m proud of this industry and proud of the wonderful career prospects it offers,” Guy says.
One of the greatest strengths of the UK’s shipping industry, Guy says, is the fact it is a meritocracy. The high standards of education and training offered in this country, especially in the Merchant Navy, allow people to lead extraordinary career paths. Guy cites himself as an example: “Who’d have thought a former deck cadet would go on to become someone who influences the industry?”
His daughter too, he says, is testament to this meritocracy. She was promoted recently to Captain onboard one of Red Funnel’s ferries serving the Isle of Wight. Guy hopes she will go on to become one of the maritime leaders of tomorrow.
But that’s not to say Guy hasn’t been thrown a few curve balls during his time at the UK Chamber – not least the outcome of the referendum on UK membership of the European Union.
“Brexit has been an opportunity for the Chamber to show some leadership,” Guy says. “When the news of the outcome of the referendum broke, we weren’t caught off guard. Luckily, we had prepared a contingency statement, which we released at 0700 that morning and our work began right away. We spent the rest of that day fielding calls and putting our points across.
“The whole experience really showed me the importance of having a unified voice for our industry to put forward our requirements. During this job, that has become ever more apparent to me,” Guy explains.
The Scottish Independence Referendum presented similar opportunities for the Chamber.
“We managed to navigate a neutral path and look after our members’ interests at the same time. During the referendum debates, we engaged our members and also forged closer links with both sides. We took the opportunity to raise the profile of the maritime industry in Scotland and that work is still paying dividends today,” he recalls.
“As a result, our relationship with the Scottish Government has become stronger than it has ever been. Scotland’s Government is now developing its own Maritime Strategy and we have been assisting in that.”
In fact, Guy says, the way the Chamber has enhanced its engagement with its members in Scotland and the Scottish Parliament is some of the work of which he is most proud.
“I have got a lot of satisfaction out of going to visit our members and seeing how they operate. It has given me a greater appreciation and a deeper understanding of the many different kinds of maritime businesses that we have here in the UK,” says Guy. “I have really truly valued their support throughout my time at the Chamber. It’s worth always remembering we are here only because of them.
“The UK is renowned for its culture of pragmatism and fairness and for being a great place in which to do business. We respect the rule of law here. These are all factors that make the UK an incredible maritime centre,” he continues.
But his departure does not come, Guy says, without a tinge of sadness: “We have a such brilliant team at the Chamber and I shall miss them all massively. Thanks also to the Presidents I have served under – their commitment has been superb and I have learnt a huge amount from them.
“It’s a job you have to put your heart and soul into to make it work. It’s an unusual job at times – unsocial hours sometimes – so when leaving you’re bound to have mixed emotions, like you have unfinished business!”
Mission accomplished, Guy – you will be missed.