Navigating difficult waters – the view from Shoreham Port

Posted On 25 Dec 2020 at 7:47 am

What appealed to me most about the chance to join the team at Shoreham was the port’s status as a trust.

Unlike the corporates I had worked for previously, any profits made are reinvested in maintaining the port for everyone’s benefit.

This ethos gives the place a great atmosphere and also presents the team with the challenging responsibility of being mindful of lots of different stakeholders.

I will remember 2020 as my first year as chief executive. I had a great 90-day plan. And I was rewriting it by day 15!

When the first wave of the pandemic hit, as a community organisation, we quickly set about to help those around us.

We made a clear commitment to our people that, no matter how hard things got, we would not be resorting to redundancies. I felt that we had assets like buildings I would sooner sell first.

In the months ahead we would be demanding a great deal from everyone in the team so I did not want people worrying about their own job security.

Next were our community of 150 small business tenants, many of whom were seeing revenue streams rapidly disappear as a result of covid-19.

We were unable to help every business to the full extent that everyone would have liked, yet at one point we had around a third of our tenant community in rental deferral schemes.

I am encouraged that the vast majority are still with us now.

As a port in the heart of a community, I also felt that we had a role to play supporting vulnerable people.

Our teams quickly found themselves delivering shopping and medicines – and my youngest daughter still talks about the vulnerable person’s dog we walked throughout summer as they were unable to leave the house.

Tom Willis

Keeping the port flowing with arrivals of fish, grain, oil, steel and aggregates (some of which was used to build nightingale hospitals) was also essential.

It is certainly not easy to unload a vessel and maintain social distancing, yet the teams found a way.

Alongside maintaining the cargo operation, a number of key projects have been completed across the port this year and I would like to thank our partners organisations who have made this possible.

At Lady Bee Marina we have installed additional pontoons for our leisure users – and we are proud to offer to market our new Ferry Wharf commercial units to which we hope to welcome tenants in the new year.

In 2021 we look forward to welcoming everyone to our new Port Kitchen which we hope will become a thriving hub here.

A visualisation of the new Port Kitchen at Shoreham Port

The new café will offer great news of the passing ships and we intend to display some of the items from our 260-year history for the first time.

As the year draws to a close, the port remains bustling with activity. A combination of the transition from the EU and pandemic-disrupted supply chains are creating a late surge of imports.

While I await any news on trade agreements with Brussels, I am confident that Shoreham Port is as well prepared as possible.

After the past 12 months, I think we could handle whatever is thrown at us!

You can get in touch with Shoreham Port through info@shoreham-port.co.uk.

Tom Willis is the chief executive of Shoreham Port.

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