Hello everyone. I recently attended the SCARA annual lunch, and it was great to see so many colleagues from that golden period so long ago. It was also there that Mike Chapman collared me to write this update!
I am currently based in Kent, running the Port of Dover. I joined the company on the eve of the first Brexit date in 2019. Needless to say it has been an eventful three years since then. It is an amazingly efficient operation, and about 20% of the UK’s trade in goods come through our ferry terminal. We are also the UK’s second busiest cruise terminal, and about 30% of the UK’s consumption in bananas arrive through our brand new state of the art Reefer terminal.
I am living in Canterbury with Naomi (PONL HR you may remember), and our three kids - Holly (11), Zach (9) and Elodie (4). Some of you may also remember my older daughter, Brynn - who’s 26, married and living in Connecticut USA.
Just before moving back to the ‘mainland’ I was living down in Jersey (not “New”, but rather “Old”) in the Channel Islands. I was looking after the ports and airport down there for about 7 years. I was doing that after leaving Maersk in 2010.
At PONL, and predecessors, I started on the docks in Port Elizabeth, NJ. This was when the USA head office was in Wayne, NJ. Eventually I moved up to the head office, after it had moved to East Rutherford and took on various roles in operations and customer service. Then Ole Sweedlund asked me to take on the job creating a global operations system (some may remember ATLAS). This gave me the opportunity to travel around the world and meet many, many great colleagues.
Then, after the merger with P&O and Nedlloyd, Barry Williams asked me to move to Rotterdam and take over European Operations from Greg Guthrie. This was my first overseas posting, based in Rotterdam at the Willemswerf, where I had to get accustomed to lights that turned off when I was meant to be home and blinds automatically closing and opening. We had a great team in Europe then (with also Andre Toet, Johan Nanninga and Nigel Pusey) and the ops teams with Stefan Marx, Luciano Gusmeri, Peter v/d Wijngaard, John Blackmore, Jacob Tas and Egbert Vennik - it was a great experience.
After a restructure in Europe, I headed down to Wellington and then Sydney to take on the Trans Tasmin Trade working for Hans Meurs and with the ANZ management team. It was my first Trade role, and what a wonderful place to live - had a chance to work with some excellent people and customers. Ben Buddo, Mic Thirgood, Leigh Atala, Vic Ferrara, Gary Quirke, Tim Smith and Bob Kemp made it all a wonderful time. The antipodeans definitely know how to both work and play hard. Oh, and there were those gruelling sales trips to Fiji and Tahiti. One I particular one I remember was a South Pacific Sales conference in Fiji, where I slipped out to make a call back to Sydney. The phone signal dropped, and when I went back into the conference everyone was listening to the radio. When I asked what was going on, the news came that Fiji was having a coup (!!). Never having been in a coup before, I asked “what do we do now”. Bernie Ryan (NZ ops manager), looked at his watch and said “I think we have time to get 9 holes in!”
From there, I moved back up to London to work for Tom Boardley to deliver the brand new Eastabout service that John Williams designed. £1b investment programme and new operating agreement with ANZDL, CP Ships, Hamburg Sued, Hapag Lloyd, CMA CGM and Marfret. Had a blast with Mal Hurdidge and the team delivering that to a point which culminated in a round of fantastic naming ceremonies for the largest reefer ships ever built (at that time). A particular highlight was meeting Naomi (Tinckler) on one of my trips to Sydney, and have spent the last 20 years thinking about how lucky I am.
We shuffled over to America for a couple of years after that, where I took over the Trans Pacific Trade from Jeremy Nixon working for Mike Seymour. Then after a change there, moved back to London to drop back into an IT role working for Tara Basi, and worked with Steve Barraclough, Ed Foster, Lynne Robertson and Eleanor Grady. After the Maersk acquisition, I eventually became MD of UK and Ireland before leaving the rich heritage of Trans Freight Lines through to Maersk.
As a young person starting work on the docks in New Jersey I could never have imagined amazing tapestry of opportunities that container shipping, but specifically PONL would provide to me.
At the recent SCARA lunch, Eta O’Brien gave a talk about her experience with the company, and it is so hard to put into words what the essence of PONL was. But geez, we - the lucky ones for being there - know what it was. There are so many people that I am grateful to have known and call my friends.