Shipping industry remembers Vance Lannaman as advocate, entrepreneur and mentor
The writer Frederick Douglass said: "Man's greatness consists in his ability to do, and the proper application of his powers to things needed to be done."
This encapsulates the greatness of a man who knew his ability to envision for himself, for his industry, for Jamaica and apply his powers so that his vision has had an enduring international impact.
Vance Lannaman believed that Jamaica had the potential to take a special place in the maritime world. He saw that the Caribbean could benefit from a maritime training institution and he set about its creation lobbying the prime minister and minister of transport to begin such an institution which became known as the Jamaica Maritime Training Institute (JMTI).
His aim was to establish a training institution to produce personnel of international calibre to man the Jamaica Merchant Marine (JMM) fleet of five ships and to help to fill the worldwide shortage of seafarers. As honorary consul of Norway, he formed an enduring alliance between that government and the new institution.
The Caribbean Maritime Institute (soon to be known as the Caribbean Maritime University) is an achievement of international importance. Lannaman's vision for it is equalled by the personal impact he had on members of the shipping industry. Lannaman and his friend, Ainsley Morris, were the founders of the company that still bears their name - Lannaman & Morris (Shipping) Limited.
Harry Maragh, current chairman and chief executive officer of that company, shared that "from its beginning in 1972, the company was a force to be reckoned with in the shipping industry. The company was unique in that here were two gentlemen - Vance Lloyd Lannaman and Ainsley Morris - one very versed on the cargo side and the other a true professional in handling cruise vessels, a rare combination that made this company a real success."
"Vance," he continued, "had one of the most amazing memories and excellent knowledge bases within the shipping fraternity. What amazes me to this day is that if you went to see him regarding an issue - say, the carriage of goods by sea - or any matter relating to a cargo claim, he would be able to respond clause by clause on the issue and put you in the right position to make a decision. He could quote word for word from the BL (bill of lading) without even having it in front of him."
"He was also a sharp negotiator, who was responsible for making Evergreen Line a significant player in the early days of the container terminal. He was a fearless advocate for the rights of others. He would defend any case, irrespective of who the principals were, once the person was in the right. He also defended the rights of shipping agents and, generally, the shipping industry."
On the personal side, Maragh recalls, "Vance had a great sense of humour, was very kind to his staff and loved a lively debate. He was my mentor. I have learnt a lot from Vance and I will cherish his memory for a long time."
Former president of the Shipping Association of Jamaica, Paul Scott, recalls Lannaman as "an extraordinary individual who believed in providing for our young people the opportunities to acquire professional training and skills. He was a good man."
Paula Pinnock, long-time shipping executive, remembers him as "one of the most knowledgeable persons I know in Jamaica's maritime industry. You could go to him for guidance in any area of shipping and he would not fail you. He had a keen sense of humour and could cheer you up all the time. I am very glad and happy to have known Daddy Vance. His work and contribution to the industry have been well appreciated by his peers and colleagues."
"A man for all seasons" is how Captain Michael Belcher, former managing director of KCT Services Limited, described Lannaman.
"Vance was a visionary, a patriot, an entrepreneur, a diplomat, a virtuoso, and, above all, a humanitarian. He was a man who continually sought knowledge and information. While he was a boarding clerk at Sprostons, he and his friend, the late Reggie Smith, sought tutelage from his then managing director, the erudite Scot, George Smith, in qualifying as members and later Fellows of the Institute of Chartered Ship Brokers. They were among the earliest recipients of that qualification in the Caribbean.
"Vance was aware, at that time, of the pressing need to provide young people with the opportunity to acquire internationally recognised tertiary qualifications relevant to all aspects of shipping. I recall being invited to his home to discuss and explore possibilities and, after our deliberations were over, Vance, to my surprise and delight, rendered an organ recital worthy of a concert virtuoso!
"Interestingly," Captain Belcher continued in his reflection, "I did not meet Vance as a result of our shared involvement on the waterfront but at a fundraising event at King's House in aid of the Jamaica Association for the Deaf (JAD). He had created an exhibit that involved participants in tossing coins on to stacks of highly polished China plates. The odds of a coin coming to rest on the top of a stack were almost non-existent. So the JAD did extremely well - an example of both his philanthropic leaning and business skill."
Lannaman's charitable work is well known and his entrepreneurial endeavours are manifest in, among other things, the formation with G. Ainsley Morris of Lannaman & Morris Limited in 1973; and his enthusiastic involvement in Fit for Life.
He was honorary consul for the Kingdom of Norway and dean of the Jamaican Consular Corps from 1987 to 1989. He was awarded the Order of St Olav, Knight First Class by the King of Norway. As a result, he became affectionately known in the industry as 'Sir Vance'.
Retired industry veteran Joseph Lowe recalls 'Sir Vance' as a "true champion, in the shipping industry. "I joined the industry in 1963, and after a few years I became familiar with certain individuals for whom I developed tremendous respect. Sir Vance was one of the leading lights.
I recall he had worked with Alcan Sprostons Jamaica Limited, then left to start his own shipping agency, Lannaman & Morris Shipping. He was a pleasant person who always had a smile on his face. I know that he respected his staff and they loved him. In our contacts over the years, he was very helpful and always willing to pass on certain experiences to me. He was a total shipping executive."
Lowe recalled that later in life, Lannaman operated a health-product store and would say that he ate healthy and exercised. "He would even challenge me to a quick sprint, but I declined," added Lowe.
Among his Caribbean Maritime Institute colleagues, he is remembered as a fierce domino player.
"He was a good man," recalls Selma Williams, the current human resource administrator at CMI and a former executive secretary at Lannaman & Morris (Shipping) Limited. "He was characterised by his humility, his kind-hearted nature and his ability to empower his staff. He empowered me. He would create the kind of work environment that encouraged me to use my initiative."
Dr Fritz Pinnock, executive director of the Caribbean Maritime Institute, remembers 'Daddy Vance' as "a visionary and a man that led with a passion. He was a big thinker who was not afraid to take risk. He was a student of the industry and had an eye for talent and excellence. He played a significant role in my love for the industry and I will remember him as a father and a mentor. As a leader, he looked about your professional and personal development. As a result, he was a colourful and creative writer and an articulate speaker. He was a confident man and a proud Jamaican who never doubted the potential of Jamaica or its citizens."