I was once asked: “Why don’t you write a book called Ports I have known? It was a joke. From the questioner’s point of view, what could possibly be interesting about a port, let alone a lot of ports, why did I keep going on about ports, and what on earth was the difference between one port and another anyway?
Many people outside our industry truly don’t get it!
Setting aside family holiday trips by cross-Channel ferry, my first ‘official’ port visit took me to Grimsby and Immingham, in search of news and stories for a Lloyd’s List Humber special report.
That was 25 years ago. Ports, shipping and logistics – and all things connected – have been my passion ever since. I am proud to say that I work in the maritime sector, as well as being a journalist.
Our industry is crucial to the day-to-day needs (and wants) of the entire population – and yet, the vast majority of the population understand little or nothing about it.
Without ports, the supermarket shelves would be empty, the petrol pumps would run dry, factories would grind to a halt. Clothes, household goods, electronics, cars, sugar, wine, coffee, chemicals, fuels, components, raw materials … day after day, the supply chains keep flowing and ports keep providing the critical link in those chains.
From a freelance journalist’s point of view, the ports industry is a dream. I have never, ever been short of a story. I’ve written my way through the opening of the Channel Tunnel, the end of Duty Free sales on ferries, the introduction of the ISPS Code, the arrival of the mega container ships, the construction, arrival and departure of Stena’s HSS fast ferries, the rapid development of offshore wind farms, the advance of digitalisation and the drive for greener, cleaner operations. Today, our ports are grappling with the challenges of Covid-19 and the looming prospect of a no-deal Brexit. As always, our ports are rising to the challenge.
Among the titles I write for are Port Strategy, SeatradeMaritime and Seatrade Cruise Review, Heavy Lift & Project Forwarding International, the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers’ Shipping Network, The Mission to Seafarers’ The Sea, Breakbulk magazine, IMarEST’sMarine Professional, Ship Management International, The Ship Supplier, Tankcontainer magazine and the Nautilus Telegraph.
I’ve worked with Compass for many years, researching and writing the editorial for handbooks in the UK and further afield – including, most recently, those for the Port of London Authority, Peterhead Port Authority, the Port of Melilla, Saint Lucia Air and Sea Ports Authority (SLASPA), Point Lisas Industrial Port Development Corporation (PLIPDECO) and Gibraltar Port Authority.
I have also co-written the UKPorts2020 publication, in cooperation with the British Ports Association and the UK Major Ports Group, and Maritime UK’s annual review– both fantastic excuses to talk, ask questions and report on our underappreciated maritime world.
Of course, different ports handle different cargo flows. But what also charms me is that every port has its own character, its own geographical quirks, its own history, its own challenges and its own plans. Each port also has its own unique set of knowledgeable, dedicated, resourceful people and it’s always a privilege to meet and learn from them.