Logistics Shift Manager
Imagine this – you’re responsible for a container ship berthed at Lyttelton Port. It needs to discharge 600 containers then have 700 containers loaded onto it. You have 20 hours to do it. There is another vessel waiting at the heads for its berthing window. Time is money and the clock is ticking.
That’s the kind of challenge that can face Chris Holt, one of the four Logistics Shift Managers (LSM) at Lyttelton Port, when he comes to work. He’s been in the role for over two years and says while Port operations are simple, the reality of making it all work well can be very complex.
Shipping works round the clock which means Lyttelton Port does too.
“The weather changes, shipping schedules change – so does what’s coming at you from other Ports, but expectations don’t,” says Chris. The Logistics Shift Managers are in the hot seat at the coal face, piecing it all together, keeping all the balls in the air so operations run well 24 hours a day.
“There are constant changes with shipping schedules, staff availability and customer needs. First of all you need to accept that things happen that are out of your control. Your role as LSM is to make a plan to deal with, and make the most of, the situation at hand. You’re managing up to 80 people at a time and they look to you for leadership and the solution they need. The LSM needs to be able to make good strategic decisions, quickly and under pressure – and be sure everyone is on the same page.”
Achieving that comes with experience, which Chris has. After growing up on a farm in Hawkes Bay, Chris and his family made the move south to Canterbury and that was the launch of his career in logistics and shipping.
“I started out at the airport, on the ground with the boys – transferring bags, customer service, guiding planes – the lot. After that I worked for a log scaling company that was based in Lyttelton. Seeing the ships that visited the Port inspired me to take things a step further and get involved in a shipping agency. I was able to soak up the knowledge from a lot of ex seacaptains and learn from them how sea logistics work. That insight has proved invaluable. I became National Operations Manager for another shipping line and after seven years working for that company, I started at LPC.”
Being in the hot seat demands the ability to problem solve, multi-task, act decisively and keep cool under pressure but, as Chris says, it’s mainly about the people.
“We all contribute to this game – we’re all part of the team. Whether it be the troops driving the straddles, up in the cranes, the Timekeepers coordinating the staff that plan the ship – we all work together to make it happen. With changing, challenging situations, it’s important the LSM keeps a sense of humour and always remains approachable.
“I enjoy it. The challenges are different and unique each shift. It’s a bit like playing a game of chess, but with wind blowing in all directions.”