François Bello is the new Managing Director of Hutchison Ports Sweden. That means he is also responsible for CTF, the Container Terminal Frihamnen in Stockholm; a port that now has the wind in its sails.
“The outlook is good, and will be even better when Stockholm Norvik Port is ready. It will be a port for real growth,” states François Bello.
François Bello lives in a small suburban community close to Rotterdam and it takes him 40 minutes to drive to work at Europe's largest port. His time spent commuting also gives him the opportunity to make a few work-related calls before his day begins in earnest in the office, which is located in the Euromax terminal in the western part of the gigantic port.
It is a few months since he became Managing Director of Hutchison Ports Sweden, and he has already travelled to Stockholm several times to get to know his staff members and become familiar with the operational activities.
“I plan to be in Stockholm at least once every month. Of course there are excellent methods of communication, such as email and Skype, but for me it is important to also meet regularly in person and discuss issues face-to-face,” explains François Bello.
All time high in the container terminal
It is six years since Hutchison Port Holdings took over the operation of the Container Terminal Frihamnen and the market situation looks significantly brighter now than when his predecessor, Scotsman Martin Allison, took up his post. Then there was worldwide economic uncertainty and a reduction in global trade, which was naturally also apparent in terms of the amount of goods passing through the container terminal. Now that development around the world is brighter it is full steam ahead at the container terminal, with record-breaking volumes achieved in the spring of 2014.
“If we examine the Northern European market things look better now, but the shipping companies that are our customers are still uncertain. Previously they would often come with a prognosis of estimated volumes for the coming year, but now they only talk about development over the next two months,” says François Bello.
When François Bello looks towards future development he also talks about the new Sulphur Directive requirements that will change the playing field for shipping and the ports around the Baltic Sea. He believes that one result of the Directive will be that the shipping companies will operate fewer, but larger, vessels in order to reduce fuel consumption.
“And this will be a competitive advantage for us when the new Stockholm Norvik Port is completed. Stockholm Norvik is a port that will be able to receive and provide services for larger vessels in a way that many of the other ports around the Baltic Sea cannot,” explains François Bello.
Preparing for Stockholm Norvik
This also provides a good illustration of one of the challenges François Bello and his colleagues are facing. They will continue to be committed to the Container Terminal Frihamnen, which is currently doing very well, so that they will still be able to offer customers good service there in the future too. At the same time they must also focus on preparing themselves for the future at the new port at Nynäshamn.
When we met, François Bello was already planning his next visit to Stockholm and he talked enthusiastically about then being able to visit Stockholm Norvik for the first time. A port that he believes is perfectly situated, with short approach fairways and shipping lanes.
“The latest drawings and blueprints I have seen also look really good. Stockholm Norvik is a port that is built for growth. As you know, we have positive development at the current container terminal too, but at Stockholm Norvik the conditions for generating growth will be even better,” François Bello states.
Stockholm Norvik will be a large port in the Baltic Sea, but it is still a relatively modest size compared to François Bello's home port in Rotterdam. But regardless of the size, the basic task is the same. It is about handling large volumes of goods as efficiently as possible.
“The strength of a smaller port is that it is easier to establish strong customer relations. That was something I noticed immediately when I came to Stockholm. Here there are enthusiastic personnel who work closely with the customer and the decision paths are short,” François Bello explains.
Ten years in the business
Those he has talked with are also positive about moving to Stockholm Norvik and getting to grips with the challenges that running so much larger an operation will bring.
François Bello has lived in several places around the world and in Holland, where he grew up. It was first when he began to study engineering that he realised he wanted to work with ports, terminals and logistics.
“I am a person who wants to work with tangible things and see the actual results of my work. Our operations are carried out around the clock and are very tangible. Moving goods around might sound easy, but the operation is much more complex than you might think and there has not been a dull moment in the ten years I have worked in port operations,” François Bello concludes.
On the contrary, he is constantly faced with new challenges and since the beginning of June has taken on one more.