Foundation for growth

Offering stevedoring, storage and re-handling of bulk & general cargoes at the Port of Southampton in the UK, Solent Stevedores has experienced rapid development and impressive growth over the past 13 years.

Last appearing in Shipping and Marine in February 2013, the ensuing eight months have been spent focusing on the integration of the Jersey operation into the group, as Ian Jacobs, managing director, explained: “We actually tendered for the Port of Jersey Stevedoring License in August 2012, and this involves the responsibility for the handling of 98 per cent of goods coming in and out of the island. The licence runs for a period of nine years, and gives us exclusivity to operate on the New North Quay where most of the general cargo and lift on lift off services operate from, together with the West of Albert berth which is where the passenger ferry services are based.

“We have two lift on lift off services, Channel Island Lines and Channel Seaways that we service and we have three cranes at our disposal (two Stothert & Pitt and a Liebherr.) We have also handled some dry bulk products at the New North Quay, namely recycled metal, fertiliser and lime.”

He continued: “Particular emphasis has been placed upon up-skilling the Jersey stevedoring team, as a great deal of refresher training was necessary, together with imprinting the Solent way on our team of how we do business,” he said.

Solent Stevedores has invested more than £500,000 on its Jersey operations, mainly for the Condor Ferries Freighter operation, as Ian elaborated: “On the West of Albert berth, we provide stevedoring services for the Condor freighter ferries and also their Fast Cat passenger vessels too. Our relationship with Condor Ferries has expanded and our staff and now assist in other roles such as baggage handling and vehicle marshalling too. “In terms of financial investments, it was very clear to us that the ageing fleet of RO/RO tugs used on a daily basis to service the requirements of Condor Ferries needed replacing. So we placed an order for five replacement RO/RO Tugs, which have cost £500K, and arrived with us in August. They are being used to tow lorry trailers on and off the Condor Freighter vessels, which is a daily task with very tight timeframes to meet the needs of scheduling and to work around the weather conditions that have a big impact on island life.”

Aside from its Jersey operations the last year has very much been focused on consolidation, and after what Ian described as an ‘extremely poor harvest in 2012’, the tonnages of grain and animal feed handled in the first six months of this year were significantly reduced.

Over the last year Solent Stevedores has worked to develop its management team, with a number of staff taking on different roles in line with business expansion. “In the latter part of 2012 we took the view that the business needed slightly restructuring to take account of the ever increasing legislation affecting primarily the Dry Bulks division. However, the other divisions have not been immune to increased regulation either. To enable us to stay one step ahead of the game, we created the new role of Compliance and Standards Manager, whose brief is to ensure that we have a level of consistency throughout all Group operations. We now have greater strength in depth by having dedicated operational management responsible for the Southampton Dry Bulks, Jersey and London and the Cruise divisions.”

In addition, the stevedoring team in Southampton Dry Bulks team have been exposed to further training in 2013 and Ian has no doubt that this continual commitment to staff is giving Solent Stevedores increased operational options across all terminals that it manages. He added: “We are now planning the next step which is looking at ways in which we can develop the management and supervisor teams in the business.”

Such investment in growing and improving both its employees and its business has benefitted Solent Stevedores considerably across its service range. “Our Cruise division has once again performed very well this year with approximately 300 cruise vessels being handled in 2013,” said Ian. “The real practical advantage that we have in servicing the needs of Carnival, is that their cruise vessel schedule is know a long time in advance, which means that we can plan our labour requirement accordingly. We have a small team of full time employees that look after the operations at the Mayflower, Ocean and Queen Elizabeth cruise passenger terminals in the Port of Southampton, then, when a vessel is calling at Southampton we will secure additional manning from our dedicated labour agency partner. The dedicated skills of our team really do make a difference to both the way we operate and how we are seen by our clients.”

For Solent Stevedores, the skill and experience of its personnel is key to current and future success, and it is this area that Ian highlights as being important over the coming years. “The main focus looking forward to 2014 is to continue developing our management team further and to give greater exposure to other staff that we identify as being potential managers of the future too. Therefore we will be spending time succession planning and executing a strategy that helps the staff flex to the growing needs of our clients and the business as a whole and which will provide a foundation from which we can confidently expand into other stevedoring activities over the coming years.”

Growing activities
Developing management team
Focusing on consolidation