As an avid cyclist, Jamie Ward knows all about pushing harder to get ahead having participated in gruelling road races around his home town of Grimsby in the UK and abroad. And he has shown the same perseverance to rise through the ranks at Inchcape Shipping Services to his present role as Head of Hub Operations.
“My experience over the past 14 years with Inchcape is that there are plenty of opportunities for advancement at the company to become what you want to be if you have the initiative, drive and ambition to learn and progress in your career as it is very supportive in this respect,” he says.
Jamie is now applying brain power rather than pedal power to keep the wheels turning efficiently at Inchcape’s four regional hubs in Grimsby, Houston, Singapore and Venice that deliver global managed solutions covering diverse port agency services for more than 20,000 port calls a year.
He was promoted to his present position just over a year ago, having previously served as team leader and subsequently hub manager at the Grimsby office, after developing leadership skills and gaining external management qualifications through Inchcape to equip him for the role.
Family roots in shipping
Jamie, aged 51, has established a solid foundation of experience in shipping after gaining his first full-time job in the industry working as a boarding agent for a small family-run port agency out of Immingham and Hull on the east coast of England, which followed a summer job tallying British relief aid sugar for Iran on the dock while studying for a college diploma in business studies.
He believes “shipping is in my blood” as he was raised in the traditional fishing port of Grimsby in a family with strong maritime roots – his grandfather served onboard as a chief engineer while his father worked first as a vessel captain and subsequently as a river pilot on The Humber.
Though Jamie has some regrets about not going to sea himself, his decision to remain on terra firma enabled him to pursue his passion for cycling that brought with it a regional junior title from road racing, while he has also participated in races in Belgium – the home of cycling – as well as on indoor tracks.
This involved hard training in all weathers and he continued to compete into his mid-thirties, though he now calls himself a “fairweather cyclist” who prefers more relaxing rides on rolling roads in temperate conditions, usually to the café and back.
‘Steep learning curve’
Jamie, a father of two teenage sons aged 17 and 19, also shifted gear in his career when he joined Inchcape in 2009 to “achieve a better work-life balance” compared with his previous job, while enabling him to broaden his horizons and learn new skills by moving from a local port agency to a global one.
He initially worked as a supervisor with a client in Norway that involved developing an IT system for integration of port call information. This meant several trips to the Scandinavian country, as well as to India once the contract was up and running.
“This proved a steep learning curve as I had to demonstrate the system to a new client. It was a bit of a shock to the system, to say the least, and I felt like a deer in the headlights. But it also brought me up to speed rapidly on how Inchcape works,” he recalls.
Infact, this proved a valuable learning experience as it helped him to develop expertise in contract management, data presentation and customer engagement necessary for running managed services on port calls, giving him the essential skill set to provide the ideal pathway for his present role.
Jamie now embraces the responsibility of running hub operations for global managed solutions that entails a comprehensive range of cost-effective services for shipping company clients on all types of port calls, regardless of port agency.
Centralization of port call services
The Global Hub comprises an independent team of experts in operations, finance, procurement, QHSSE and legal to optimise and simplify the entire process of port calls, thereby freeing up capacity at shipping companies to drive their core business. Centralizing the process with one global agent gives companies a single point of contact to manage and solve problems with local port agents, eliminating time-consuming port call tasks.
Regional hubs support charterers, shipowners and operators by working directly with port agents to provide standardized, tailored services worldwide, leveraging the resources of Inchcape’s global network, to increase port call efficiency, while controlling costs and mitigating risk.
These cover commercial services including strategic procurement for cost optimization, with a dedicated team to secure the best prices with vendors that are verified according to Inchcape’s ethical and sustainability standards. There is a fully transparent verification, validation and approval process for disbursement of accounts (DA), with one bank account and one currency for all port calls.
As well as secure financial transactions, anti-bribery and anti-corruption programmes are in place, together with QHSEE management systems, cyber-security programmes and data protection to ensure good governance.
Global managed solutions are delivered through the interactive Optic software platform developed by Inchcape as an end-to-end solution, with full transparency for the client via operations and finance dashboards that provide detailed and accurate real-time data related to port calls.
Supporting role for regional hubs
Inchcape estimates that centralization of port call services can generate annual cost savings of around 10% through lower vendor pricing and fewer financial transactions, while cutting port turnaround times, reducing the risk of fraud and claims, and enabling better decision-making through data transparency.
Jamie is responsible for overseeing hub operations globally to supervise service delivery and contract management, while also supporting functions such as finance hub and IT, giving guidance to regional managers and tackling any service issues with clients. Naturally, this entails lots of team meetings with the regional hubs that he says “is the nature of the beast at management level”.
“I really enjoy managing the service side of things through customer engagement to maintain and grow the business. Bringing onboard new clients means ensuring regional hubs have the required manpower and resources, which can be stressful but is also really exciting,” he explains.
“I am also motivated by other aspects of the work such as developing processes, problem-solving and implementing remedial measures to tackle various issues, and defining KPIs for different clients.”
Jamie says he is now focused on building a strong Global Hub team “so that clients do not want to go anywhere else”, underpinned by a culture of communication and collaboration at Inchcape with a structured working environment and clear vision for future growth.
Furthermore, he is keen to promote the capabilities of colleagues and provide opportunities to help them advance to the next level at Inchcape as he has done.
Having taken a step up at the company, Jamie says: “It has not been an easy ride but it has been worth the effort and I am proud that I can continue the family tradition in shipping.”