Saltwater in His Veins

Jim Quinn introduces Hon. Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport (Canada) at the Spring Conference in 2014.

Jim Quinn introduces Hon. Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport (Canada) at the Spring Conference in 2014.

Port Saint John President and CEO Jim Quinn has deep roots in the port, the community and AAPA

By Sarah Sain

Jim Quinn jokes that he has saltwater in his veins.

A native of Saint John in New Brunswick, Canada, Quinn grew up just a block from the port where he now serves as president and CEO.

Quinn served in leadership positions for more than 30 years in the marine and public sectors in Canada, including 23 years with the Canadian Coast Guard. But his family history is tied to the port, and it was family that brought him back to Saint John right before he was appointed head of the port in September 2010.

Since Day 1, Quinn has strived to make the port a part of the fabric of the community that he loves.

“When I joined the port, I spent the first two to three months talking with the stakeholder community and asking them, ‘What is your advice?’ and ‘What would you do as the new CEO?’”

Quinn said it was important to capitalize not just on the expertise of port staff but on the broader knowledge within the community and industry. Each year, the port holds a series of meetings that includes outside stakeholders and staff to discuss the strategic direction of the port. This input is subsequently provided to the Port’s Board of Directors (commissioners) for their consideration as they update the port’s strategic plan.

From this initial stakeholder meeting, the port developed an inclusion model that has foundations in collaborative approaches to marketing, community outreach, operations and life-cycle asset management.

Business-wise, the port is focused on growth.

“Five years ago we began a concentrated effort to reintroduce Port Saint John to the shipping world,” Quinn said. “We started to tell our story to shipping and receiving interests as well as individuals, companies and stakeholders, international, nationally and locally. People listened and now we are seeing results.”

Numbers are going up: Container traffic doubled, while dry and break bulk cargoes have increased by 55 percent since 2012. After a couple of challenging years from 2012 to 2014, cruise passenger traffic is on the upswing as well with increases projected for 2015 and 2016.

In order to maintain the business growth being experienced in these sectors and to be ready for future growth, Quinn says the priority is now to modernize the port’s cargo terminals by investing in infrastructure and technology. A few years ago the port invested more than $40 million into cruise facilitates, now the focus is on cargo growth.

“We are on the eve of a significant modernization of the port,” he said. “Our proposed $205 million modernization project will strengthen and lengthen existing terminals, as well as develop a new intermodal yard and improved truck access to increase safety and efficiency. The project also includes a channel and berth deepening component..”

The project has the potential of providing a $152 million boost to Provincial GDP over eight calendar years, including creation of direct, indirect and induced effects. This will translate into 2,245 person years’ worth of employment and boost labour income by $109.6 million. Along with these benefits the project will generate $35.4 million in tax revenue to all levels of government and support $84 million worth of consumer spending. As Quinn noted, enabling the creation of jobs is a fundamental role of all ports.

“Ports are a foundation for the economy on the community level and in the broader, more far-reaching sense,” he said. “Ports are the transition point that keeps goods and services flowing. We have to tell this story, because the more the public understands the economic value of ports, the more importance governments and administrations will place on ports.”

This past April at the AAPA Spring Conference, Quinn was elected Chairman of the Board for the association’s 2015-2016 year.

Quinn has learned from and been a proponent of AAPA for years. As he tells it, the day before his first official day on the job at Port Saint John, Quinn drove down to Halifax to attend the association’s 2010 Annual Conference. He was taken right away with the breadth of knowledge gathered in one place and the cooperative atmosphere.

While Quinn has a number of goals in the role of chairman, one specifically is that he’d like to look at how each of the delegations can be more participatory within AAPA. Quinn says he thinks the U.S., Canadian and Caribbean delegations can learn a lot from their Latin American counterparts and how that delegation has embraced the association over the past few years as common challenges facing all ports are considered.

Overall, Quinn said he is excited for the year to come – and even a little nervous: “It’s a big association with a big footprint. I just want to do the best job I can.”