New MD at DFDS sails back to the helm of former employer after recent rail roles
HANDOVER: Sean Potter, right, with successor Andrew Byrne, new managing director of DFDS Seaways, at Nordic House, Immingham.
By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 20 Feb 2018
A KEY driver for the UK economy, anchored on the South Bank of the Humber, has appointed a new managing director.
Immingham-based DFDS Seaways has welcomed back Andrew Byrne who, having served the shipping giant in his early career, is now succeeding Sean Potter at the helm, overseeing operations from Rosyth to Felixstowe from the Nordic House headquarters.
Like Mr Potter, he is a former Cleethorpes schoolboy, and has told how the playing out of the ports industry after Brexit was a key draw for him to return to the shipping world.
It follows his predecessor’s promotion to a group role looking after digital and IT developments.
Mr Byrne, the son of a St Peter’s Avenue shoe shop manager, began his career as a YTS customs clearance clerk with Exxtor, jumping ship to join DFDS for five years.
He then moved to become part of the team that opened Humber Sea Terminal at North Killingholme in 1999, prior to changing transport mode, joining rail specialist EWS, which became DB Cargo, where he remained until this role emerged.
He said: “It is a real pleasure to return. I was in quite a junior role before and it is great to be back and see how much it has grown in recent years.
Work continues to add capacity on the docks to deal with DFDS’s organic growth and handle any holding traffic enhanced checks could bring come the EU separation, with more storage for cars and trailer units being created.
Mr Byrne said: “It was one of the things that attracted me. It is going to be a challenge in terms of the processes and how we keep the flows moving, with potential extra layers to go through. I think it is a really good challenge for us, we are going to have to trade, we are an island nation, we are not going to suddenly start growing and making everything we import. It is one of the key things that attracted me to be honest, as I love a challenge.”
In his time away, Nordic House itself has been expanded, with the roll-on roll-off riverside terminal also added to build on the in-dock quays, massively boosting capacity.
Mr Potter welcomes the first vessel to the new £35 million Riverside Terminal at Immingham in 2006. The Tor Britannia from Esbjerg in Denmark, docked at the new pontoon and linkspan bridge a month ahead of the official opening.
Reflecting on his tenure, Mr Potter, who took over from Jens Neilsen in 2010, with the country starting the tough recovery from a deep recession, he said: “We didn’t so much stabilise it as take it on to the next level as part of the group strategy for Immingham to maintain and develop the productivity and customer experience. There have been a lot of changes for the better for the industry and within DFDS, with growth inside Europe and results.
“We have increased our throughput in terms of units by three to four per cent year-on-year, and for me, working with the team and port operatives, it has been great being a local lad and supporting the growth, the general throughput, and developing things further, whether that has been through the employment forum or our links in to the community.”
A total of 620 people are employed in the shipping side of the business, with logistics a separate division supporting another 400.
The team is predominantly made up of port operatives with specialist skill sets. Mr Potter will now be joining the shipping division’s management team in Copenhagen, while also working in Immingham and other locations where required.
Looking ahead, he said: “It is about aligning all our systems and integrating in to an innovative world for the shipping division as digital impacts on industry as a whole.
“The sector as a whole, I would say, is analogue, not as fast moving as business to consumer sectors. We are embracing the opportunity to develop digital and offer our customers new products and services to keep up with the supply chain.
“I am keen on technology, in a past life I was an engineer by trade, so that comes in to it. It is a promotion for me and an opportunity to change and assist in shaping DFDS’s future in digital industry and shipping.”
On Brexit, DFDS has hosted a task force visit and forged its own, while working alongside the CBI and others to fully understand implications.
Mr Potter said: “The group sees this as an opportunity, subject to which way the final decisions go, be it free trade or some form of customs union. With implications for customs clearance, that impacts on the supply chain and will bring new opportunities.
“We are holding discussions with our customers, covering DFDS’ awareness and support, through to what and how they are preparing. We have a Brexit task force covering everything from connectivity to government systems to capacity if there are material shifts in transport and how we deal with customs, the flow and resilience plans.”
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