PPM® Certification Readies Executives for the Top

AAPA’s Professional Port Manager program prepares to graduates its first class since implementing new guidelines four years ago.

By Sarah Sain

The American Association of Port Authorities PPM® (Professional Port Manager) program is ready to graduate its first class under new guidelines implemented in 2010. This new graduating class will be more ready than ever to serve and lead the maritime community.

The PPM® program was conceived in 1995 as a way to further the association’s goals to enhance port management professionalism by assisting port authorities, maritime organization and agencies in hiring and promoting qualified professionals.

The changes implemented four years ago include more rigorous criteria for admittance and completion requirements. Candidates also must have a recommendation from their port director before beginning the program.

“The program is now more selective and more intensive,” said Rex Sherman, AAPA’s director of research and information services and administrator of the PPM® program. “The old version was good, but this takes the program a step further.”

For starters, individuals are now accepted as members of a class, and they must complete all requirements within four years, as opposed to eight. Candidates are required to attend seven of AAPA’s core seminars and training programs, plus three elective seminars.

“Whereas the candidates used to attend the seminars and take notes, now what happens is they go to the seminars as a class and meet to discuss what they’ve learned. These discussion groups are led by the chairman of the committee sponsoring the seminar or a member of the Curriculum Committee [which oversees the program]. It’s more of a collegiate atmosphere.”

Another purpose behind the updates to the program was so that candidates would have more opportunities to interact with senior port executives. For that reason, they must be active on one of AAPA’s 14 committees.

Before graduating, the final requirement is for candidates to complete a thesis, group research project or residency at another port or AAPA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“The drafts of papers coming from so far from the 2014 class are very high quality – something you’d expect from graduate students,” Sherman said. “We really have a very talented group.”

Dr. Geraldine Knatz, former executive director at the Port of Los Angeles and past chairman of the AAPA Curriculum Committee, played a critical role in shaping the updated PPM® program. She said she’s seen affects of the changes already.

“I know these changes are working because I have seen one of my own staff members who entered the PPM® program just really step out and get involved in committee leadership as a result of the PPM® changes,” she said. “That is what the industry needs: Younger people stepping up to lead.”

Port of Palm Beach Executive Director Manny Almira said he believes earning his PPM® was one of accomplishments that made him stand out to the port’s Board of Directors during the hiring process.

“The fact that I was a candidate when I was interviewed, I know that it was heavily weighted in the Board’s decision. It set me apart,” he said. “If I think back, I’m quite certain that of all the other finalist, at that time none of them had a PPM®. The commissioners recognized the importance of the distinction and made me commit to graduating.”

Almira earned his PPM® in 2013.

For Thomas Heidt, deputy executive director, finance and administration at the Port of Houston Authority, earning his PPM® in 2002 was an important step in his goal of moving into an executive position at the port. But he said, by far, the main benefit that he took away from the program was the relationships he formed with other candidates and port officials.

“There are many executives throughout the issue – now friends – who I can contact at any time for information or advice and vice versa,” he said.

Dr. Noel Hacegaba, acting deputy executive director and chief operating officer at the Port of Long Beach, is a current candidate in the PPM® class of 2016. He said he was motivated to apply for the PPM® program as a way to enhance his understanding of seaports in order to contribute more significantly to Port of Long Beach.

“With its comprehensive curriculum, seminar-style courses and the reputation and vast network of AAPA behind it, the PPM® program seemed like the best path,” he said. “Two years into the program, I have found it to be even more beneficial to my career than I first imagined. Having now been exposed to other areas, such as terminal operations, security and engineering, I have a more complete and global perspective of a port authority.”

To date, 90 individuals have graduated from the PPM® program, and there are 35 candidates in the 2014 and 2016 classes.

AAPA’s Sherman said he feels the PPM® program is a testament to the service that the association provides its members.

“Education and training are a major mission of AAPA,” he said. “This is where we put it to the test.”

The Latin PPM®

By Raymond Byl


AAPA Latin PPM® Program Director

The Latin PPM® Program was created due to changes that were taking place in the port and maritime sectors and transportation systems, as well as challenges that arose in the logistics chain as a result of the globalization of international trade in the 1980s and 1990s.

The program is not a reproduction or translation of the PPM® (Professional Port Manager) offered in English by AAPA. It is offered in Spanish and Portuguese and is a completely different program designed to suit the needs and address the challenges affecting ports in Latin America. Although Latin American port professionals possess valuable administrative and operations work experience, it was evident that they required new skills, tools and overall knowledge on a series of topics, including strategic planning, marketing, and investment and finance, in order to face the new challenges of sector growth and continuous change.

As ports play an increasingly active role in the integration of logistics networks, ports need to provide better, more efficient services at the lowest possible costs. Additionally, a growing number of value-added logistics activities are being provided in and around port areas creating value and more activity, different from those previously offered.

Ports have also needed to invest large sums of capital for deepening and widening access channels and the construction of new berths with sufficient depth and length to accommodate the arrival of the newer generation larger ships.

In the context of these structural changes, the need to address and develop better behavioral and attitudinal norms became evident so that port leaders would have the skills and tools needed to achieve increased efficiency in management and operations.

In order to create a program capable of addressing these needs, the Latin American Delegation of AAPA and TRAINMAR AMÉRICAS conducted a thorough analysis of the sector, ultimately designing courses that address the needs of Latin American port managers. It was determined that port professionals should have multidisciplinary abilities and be able to act in complex environments difficult to predict. It became evident that the development of port policies and strategies must be forward thinking and enable the ports to be flexible in the ever-changing environment. The Latin PPM® was created to foster the skills highly committed professionals need to develop successful strategies for their institutions.

Since the program’s inception, more than 85 port leaders have participated from Latin American countries including Colombia, Peru, Argentina, El Salvador, Mexico, Guatemala and Ecuador. Candidates from Uruguay and Costa Rica are in the process of enrolling. Eighteen participants have completed the entire program, graduating and earning the Latin PPM® certification, while four are in the last stage of the program and finalizing their theses.

PPM® Class of 2014

Sandra Ambris
Ricardo J. Arias, Port of Houston Authority
Michael Bragales, TASC Inc.
Regina Brayboy
Donald Brinkman, Port of Lake Charles
Eduardo A. Campirano, Port of Brownsville
Molly Campbell, Port of Los Angeles
Dakota Chamberlain, Port of Tacoma
Jose B.Guevara, Port Authority of Guam
Charles Hausman, Calhoun County Port Authority
Enrique Hurtado Juarez, Tennessee Valley Authority
Neil Kutchera, Port Rverglades
Catherine McGrail, Halifax Port Authority
Norris E. “Ed” Merkle, Motorola
Glenn B. Nelson, Port Authority of Guam
Elizabeth Ogden, PortMiami
Eafael Quesada, Port of Pascagoula
Michael A. Smith, Port of Pascagoula
Michael Vanderbeek, Port Everglades

PPM® Class of 2016

Christian D. Bonura, Port of New Orleans
Ronald Brown, Port of Oakland
Stuart B. Dezember, Port of Benton
Blair Garcia, Parsons Brinckerhoff
Matthew Gresham, Port of New Orleans
Dr. Noel Hacegaba, Port of Long Beach
Lance Kaneshiro, Port of Los Angeles
Patsy Ann Keays, Sept-Îles Port Authority
Alex King, Panama City Port Authority
David R. Koch, Oregon International Port of Coos Bay
Paul C. LaMarre III, Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority
Eric Martineau, Québec Port Authority
Gilda Ramirez, Port of Houston Authority
Richert L. Self, Port of Lake Charles
Paula Small, Port Saint John
Dr. Natacha J. Yacinthe, Port Everglades