The beginnings of my maritime career were simple enough. While helping a friend clean a big swimming pool in Brazil, I ran into the owner, a seasoned marine pilot. Without knowing it, he got me interested in the maritime sector and transport logistics.
After obtaining my marine radio operator certificate, I accompanied my pilot friend in his travels. I met a number of shipping agents and saw how dedicated they were and the role they played in ship operations. On returning to Québec, I was very interested in this occupation.
And here I am, after many years as a shipping agent, working as the Operations Manager of Fednav’s new Quebec City Agency.
What does an Operations Manager do? My main job is overseeing all communications that go through the Agency and making sure that everything related to vessel loading and unloading runs smoothly. We work as a team and I help shipping agents monitor operations with the ships involved.
We’re the first to receive important information affecting the people working in the field, both at sea and in ports. It’s vital that we share any potentially useful details with them immediately, and that we keep them informed, so as to effectively coordinate the schedules of our port calls with the port traffic expected.
My day begins—after I’ve enjoyed my morning coffee—with a quick check of my many emails to see if there are any emergencies to deal with. We proceed according to priority and begin by answering the ships that will arrive in port first. Today, there are two. We have to let the ports know what time each ship is arriving and provide the details needed for the longshoremen to unload the incoming vessels.
We deal with many ships in a day, all of which are at different points in their voyage. Some are negotiating agreements, others are beginning their trip, and still others are arriving in port, etc.
Right now, I have to coordinate the departure of a ship from Asia and manage the contracts of another company that will bring salt to Québec. I’ll also have to contact a European firm to inform it of the cost of a merchant voyage Montréal so that it can plan its operations and sign an agreement with the ship operator that will take care of the cargo transport.
My job involves a lot of communicating–by telephone and email–in French and English. We have to talk to all kinds of people: customs officials, immigration officers, ship captains, port workers responsible for vessel loading/unloading, customers and many others.
It’s important to be accurate, concise, fast and able to prepare for unforeseen events. This also makes team work so vital to our operations. Team members must be able to get along and support each other to work many hours. Plus, we must constantly be on our toes so as to be able to meet our customers’ requests and provide services to our captains.
At the end of a work day, when operations have been successful and we’re all on top of things regarding our respective ships’ stopovers, we enjoy the feeling of a job well done! Every day is different, requiring a love of what we do, dedication, a sense of organization and, especially, people skills. It makes my job exciting, every single day.