Difficult decisions all in a day’s work for trusted troubleshooter Hutson

When there is a need for a cool head in a crisis, Inchcape Shipping Services need look no further than seasoned shipping veteran and experienced troubleshooter Dave Hutson.

The good-humoured Area General Manager for the East Mediterranean cluster exudes an aura of unruffled repose as he reclines in a black leather chair at his Piraeus office where he has overall responsibility for Inchcape operations in 24 countries across the region.

These include Greece, Egypt, Turkey, Ukraine and Malta, as well as 19 countries where Inchcape does not have its own entity, all of which are overseen by the Regional Operations Centre (ROC) in Greece that he runs.

Hutson, a 69-year-old UK native who was raised in Hackney, East London and started out in shipping as a clerk at NYK Line, has in his own words “been around the block” in a globetrotting career and has gained a popular reputation among his Inchcape colleagues as an unflappable, trusted professional with an innate ability to build teams and foster the potential of others.

His business firefighting skills are also legendary, having stepped into the fray when war broke out in Ukraine last year to ensure the safety of Inchcape personnel and help those staff who wished to seek refuge in Poland, which is an ongoing effort.

Inchcape is also engaged in facilitating the grain shipment corridor from Ukraine, with all Ukrainian and Turkish staff assisting directly.

Dave Hutson
Inchcape Shipping Services’ Area General Manager for the East Mediterranean David Hutson, pictured at his office in Piraeus, is a team player and experienced hand who is used to sitting in the hot seat.

Keeping calm amid the storm
Similarly, Hutson took care of employees and their families amid the recent earthquakes and subsequent floods in Turkey, helping them wherever possible as some were unable to return home until the government confirmed it was safe to do so.

In addition, he supported personnel in doing their jobs to maintain business continuity for Inchcape clients, with Ukrainian staff working remotely from Poland and employees in Turkey still able to visit vessels in the aftermath of the natural disaster with “great assistance from our Turkish colleagues in Mersin”.

Hutson also had to tackle the “massive challenge” of controlling the flow of information to stakeholders and the media in connection with the grounding of the giant containership Ever Given in the Suez Canal in 2021.

So what is the secret: how does he manage to stay so calm under pressure?

“I guess it’s just in my nature, but I also have a lot of experience from handling real-life situations. This is not rocket science: it is about having the ballast of experience and not being phased by anything,” he says.

“There is always a solution to every problem and making rash decisions is usually counterproductive. It is important to remain focused, determine what can be done and act accordingly using the resources available. Keep calm and carry on,” he explains.

Turnaround king
Hutson is currently serving his second stint in 10 years of working at Inchcape, having initially been hired for a special operational role to set up operations on the ground in Papua New Guinea – mainly in preparation for energy supermajor ExxonMobil’s LNG export business – amid a precarious local security situation.

He was subsequently called upon to make a rapid shift and quickly take on a new challenge as General Manager (GM) in Egypt due to the departure of the previous GM, and initially had responsibility for both PNG and Egypt.

After leaving Egypt, Hutson was eventually requested at short notice to move quickly to Greece, where he first served as a consultant before taking on his current full-time role in 2020. 

“I have typically been deployed to different places to deal with particular difficulties or challenges, which has entailed resolving situations by building teams, strengthening motivation and trust, and developing resources on the ground to establish smooth-running operations,” Hutson explains.

“As such, my career path has been dictated by the requirements of the Inchcape organization and leading of others to determine where I can be most useful, which is fine by me as long as I can make a positive contribution. I never say no to any challenge.”

Hutson, who is married with three adult children and three grandchildren, first wanted to become a teacher but instead decided to work his way up in the shipping world after completing his A-level exams at school in the UK and ultimately took a seven-year study programme to gain the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers qualification.

He has performed various roles in the industry, including handling arbitration in charter disputes, and also was able to fulfill his initial ambition by working as a lecturer teaching for a short period on the liner trades at Guildhall University in London. His diverse career prior to joining Inchcape took him to many different countries including Greece, Italy, Egypt, Japan, Cyprus and Georgia, as well as Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Piraeus Team1
David Hutson with his Piraeus team.

Many balls to juggle
Hutson, a keen aficionado of all sports who “loves competition”, has been able to indulge his passion for soccer both by playing as a goalkeeper at amateur level for Greek and Italian teams, and acting as a coach for junior sides in Greece.

His other personal interests include learning, together with his wife of 48 years, the Chinese martial art of Tai chi – inspired by the movie The Intern – as well as reading crime thrillers and keeping up with politics. And it probably comes as no surprise that he also enjoys travelling and meeting people.

As Area General Manager, Hutson supports and establishes Inchcape’s ROCs and manages its local offices in various countries in the East Mediterranean (Greece, Egypt, Turkey, Malta and Ukraine) with hands-on responsibility for human resources, recruitment, commercial issues and resourcing to ensure deliveries of services for clients, as well as business development.

“Basically, I supervise everything including management of our ROC in Greece, which is extremely important as it is also the point of contact for a number of clients. Every day is different, so it is all about maintaining a close dialogue with our personnel in different countries to deal with issues as they arise and being available for anything that comes up. This is a 24/7 job,” he explains.

ISS EM managers
David Hutson with Patrick Morphy – Cruise Operations Manager, Nikolaos Stratakos – Marine Services Manager (Greece) and Phaedon Stavridis – General Manager Sales.

Culture of promoting people
Three years into his latest exciting assignment, Hutson now oversees “a thriving and fantastic team” in the East Mediterranean that is regularly winning new business across multiple segments – from government services to cruise, liner and non-liner, among others – with success in any one country feeding into other parts of the region, he says.

Hutson characterizes himself as “an old dog learning new tricks as I am learning and growing all the time” and he embraces transformation at Inchcape as the corporate culture evolves continually.

Fortunately, he sees his job as probably his favourite pastime as he “loves interacting with people and seeing them realize their potential”.

In many ways, he is the embodiment of the people-focused culture of Inchcape – for which its global workforce represents its biggest asset – and he is strongly aligned with the company’s humanitarian values. “I want to work for a company that looks after its people in the right way,” he says.

When building teams, Hutson is focused on interacting with his colleagues to get to know them and tap into their talent and credentials, which means they can be given relevant opportunities to expand their abilities.

“Teamwork is where everyone can develop and work well together. Seeing people succeed is my biggest motivator for going to work in the morning. That is the goal,” he says.