Diversity and Persistence: 5000 Projects Since 1995

Today, August 11, 2015, was a landmark day for Martin & Ottaway. Traditionally M&O used a report numbering system. Once a report was issued, it was provided with a sequential report number, but when I joined the firm in 1988, keeping track of projects by ship’s names until the report was issued became an unmanageable task, and that year we started a case number system. We simply took the last report number and for each case in progress we assigned sequential numbers.

We made a case book and when a project started we took out a case number.  To make the number easily identifiable, Henk van Hemmen suggested we precede each case number with the initials “WT” to honor William T. Ottaway who had started the report numbering sequence in 1961.

In 1988 we started with case number WT-17593 (which would have been the next report number that day) for a ship named the Aconcagua. Harry Ottaway told me he and his father had started with report number 10000 in 1961, which would convert to a little less than 300 reports per year. Often one project results in one report, but that is just a loose association.

When we moved to Red Bank in 1995, we had reached case number WT-19541. This was roughly 2000 cases in 7 years, which converts to a little less than 300 cases per year. Because we had moved to New Jersey, we decided we would start with a clean sheet and our next case was numbered WT-20000.

Today we opened case number WT-25000, 5000 cases in 20 years!

That is just about 250 cases per year. (Our sales have grown year to year, the reduction in cases is mostly related to increased H&M deductibles. Up to the late 80’s we did many H&M surveys for many small claims, which resulted in many small cases. Now most of our H&M work relates to fewer, but much larger, claims).

Each new case is entered into our case book by the consultant who runs the case, and, periodically, Teresa, our accounts manager, enters them into our database and then makes a printout that is ringbound in the casebook. That casebook is now an impressive tome, and it is interesting to leaf back and forth to ponder our existence.

The transition point in 1995 shows the following cases:

Most of the clients are still clients, and occasionally opponents, which is equally satisfying, and, while much has changed, much also stayed the same. (The typo on this page must have been introduced by our dear late Russian account manager, Alla Tsiring, and, therefore, will not be corrected)

In the run-up to case WT-25000, we considered holding that number for a “special” case, but that was quickly dismissed because all cases are equally special. WT-25000 ended up being a condition and valuation survey, which speaks to our survey and valuation tradition. But the immediate preceding case numbers in the descriptions indicate: a pollution incident, a possible bioterrorism issue, a theft investigation, an allision, a valuation, a claims presentation, a broken crank shaft, an internal audit, a keel cooler leak, and a dock damage. The immediate run up did not include the more exotic subjects such as neural networks, environmental crimes, financial research, concept design, pure maritime research or a complex composites failure, but they, and so many more, all exist in those 5000 cases.

The term “case” sounds like we are always involved in private investigations or court cases, but nothing is further from the truth. Each number represents a problem and a solution that is intended to solve or, at least, reduce the problem for the client and often multiple other stake holders. And clients we have many; in the last 5000 problems we have served in the order of 1000 clients!

And, therefore, when we ponder 5000 projects in 20 years, we mostly thank our many clients for having faith in our ability to help them solve their maritime problems. Thank you Dear Clients; we hope to continue to serve you for many more thousands of problems.