Sat | Jun 19, 2021

Condell Stephenson, new member of the SAJ Managing Committee

Published:Tuesday | February 23, 2021 | 12:05 AM

The recent annual general meeting of the Shipping Association of Jamaica (SAJ) welcomed two new members to their 13-member board of directors, known as the Managing Committee (MC), which is the association’s highest decision-making body. Anna Hamilton and Condell Stephenson are the two new members of the committee that consists of the president, William Brown; vice president, Corah-Ann Robertson-Sylvester; immediate past president, Charles Johnston; and eight members of the SAJ, as well as the association’s Group CEO, Trevor Riley.

In last week’s Shipping Feature, we introduced readers to Hamilton, and this week we turn the spotlight on Condell Stephenson, another stalwart of the shipping industry who now sits on the SAJ’s MC, which sets the policy by which the association functions, and has the responsibility and authority over the direction and control of the affairs of the SAJ, including the approval of applications for membership.

A HALF-CENTURY IN SHIPPING

Condell Stephenson wanted to be a radio announcer, but says he “got into shipping by accident when a friend told me about a job at Kingston Wharves Limited (KWL) 50 years ago – in February 1971”. Born in Porus, Manchester, Stephenson attended secondary school at St Jago High in St Catherine, and it was shortly after his graduation that he was told of the opportunity at KWL. Starting out as an accounting clerk, he and another colleague, the late Robert Kinlocke, approached their superiors at KWL for sponsorship to pursue business studies at the College of Arts Science and Technology, now University of Technology (UTech). The request was granted, along with a one-day release from work, and he obtained a certificate in business studies.

Stephenson’s positive work attitude resulted in KWL’s offer of a scholarship for him to read for a bachelor’s degree in maritime studies, majoring in port administration, industrial relations and maritime economics, at the University of Wales, United Kingdom. In 1979, after successfully completing the course, he returned to Jamaica and took up the post of management trainee within the Grace Kennedy Shipping Division. This allowed him to gain valuable experience in shipping agency and stevedoring operations. He was eventually seconded to Kingston Terminal Operators (a subsidiary company of KWL). Over the years, he was promoted up the ladder of success to planning manager, administrative manager and general manager - operations. He also held the post of human resource and development manager at APM Terminals (Jamaica) Limited.

Currently, Stephenson is the port captain for Hoegh Autoliners, where he is responsible for the operational aspects of the shipping line in Kingston. He also has some operational oversight of the line’s feeder service in over a dozen Caribbean ports.

INVOLVEMENTIN THE SAJ

“I have always been a strong advocate for increasing the academic qualifications of port workers,” says Stephenson, and as a member of the SAJ he has pursued this mission from his early years in the industry. He recognised that, given the new era of containerisation, the role of the stevedore increasingly required more brain than brawn and used his membership on the Stevedoring and Wharf Committee, and then the Training Committee of the SAJ, to assist in creating the transformation.

Stephenson reveals that “at that time, there was a lot of push back from very senior and more experienced managers who thought that the emphasis on education was not necessary, as ‘no high-school graduate would apply to lift cargo’.” He persevered, however, and got support from persons like Mike Belcher, Mike Bernard, and the late Mike Silvera. Today, he can proudly say “the results are there for everyone to see”.

He is the current chairman of the Joint Industrial Council (JIC) of the Port of Kingston, which promotes harmonious labour relations at the port, and is also chairman of the SAJ Staff Pension Fund. He received a special award from the SAJ for his invaluable contribution to the success of the JIC.

A CARIBBEAN MAN

Stephenson never goes halfway in anything that he is involved with, and so it was not long after he started attending meetings of the Caribbean Shipping Association (CSA) that he was appointed training director of the CSA in 1986. He remembers being encouraged by the late Ludlow ‘Luddy’ Stewart, a past president of the SAJ and the CSA, who shared his passion for training. He remained in that post for six years, during which he organised and conducted training courses for CSA members throughout the Caribbean.

“My major achievement as CSA training director,” Stephenson says, “was to have an UNCTAD, Training in Maritime (TRAINMAR) centre established in the region.” The centre was located in Guadeloupe and was initially funded with a grant from the French government. Stephenson still attends the CSA annual meetings from time to time.

LIFE OF SERVICE

Stephenson is the current chairman of the Rotary Club of Kingston Major Projects and for many years was an active member of the JAYCEES (now Junior Chamber International) movement in Jamaica. While in the JAYCEES, he held various positions, which included secretary general of Jaycees of Jamaica and president of the Kingston Jaycees. In 1993 he was conferred with the JAYCEES International Senatorship, thus becoming a lifetime member of JAYCEES International.

He is the current president of C&WJ Co-operative Credit Union Limited, the largest credit union, by assets, in Jamaica.

He is a director of International Shipping Limited and Gateway Shipping International Limited.

LESSONS AND VISION

The new member of the SAJ’s Managing Committee has mentored many young persons, not only in shipping. His advice is: ‘Perseverance will bring success; let no one deter you from your goals and aspirations.’

Stephenson says: “The shipping industry is exciting and persons can make successful careers from it. The industry in Jamaica is alive and well and, with vision, can expand even further to make an even greater contribution to the economy of Jamaica. The Jamaican industry must be a leader in the Caribbean, and we set our target of being in the top 10 in the world.”

As a member of the SAJ’s MC, Stephenson is now using his years of experience to advance the plans and programmes of the SAJ. “I will also advocate and lobby for the SAJ to chronicle the significant contribution of the ordinary workers in the development of the industry,” he adds.

Stephenson is married to his “soulmate” Sharon and is the proud father of three children.