Profile of a Shipping Person – Mr. Berndt Olesen

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This week: Mr. Berndt Olesen,
Wellington, New Zealand


Tell us about how you got into shipping in the first place. Why didn’t you become a journalist, a banker or an engineer instead?

As a child and teenager, I always had an appetite for adventure and I wanted to travel the world. Coming from a very modest background, I needed to find a career which would give me the opportunity to travel and I thought that shipping was going to satisfy this desire. I started with A P Moller/Maersk as a 17-year old trainee in 1971 without much formal education. Little did I know then that shipping would give me so much more than just fulfilling my desire to travel.

Tell us which countries you have lived in and for how long.

I have spent over 42 years in the shipping industry, 17 years in Denmark, 9 years in Australia, 5 in the USA, 4 in Singapore, 3 in Indonesia, 2 in Canada, and 1 year each in Holland and China.

Elaborate on the various positions you have held in shipping, which principals have you worked for and what kind of duties have you had during the various assignments?

I have worked for a number of very well respected companies such as A P Moller/Maersk, Clipper, Gearbulk, SAL, Hansa Heavy Lift, Oiltanking and The Port of Geraldton.

I have been fortunate enough to work in a variety of areas such as break-bulk, dry bulk, tankers, sale & purchase, new-buildings, projects, heavy lift, ports and terminals, and logistics. I have done operations and chartering, I have been involved in and managed joint-ventures. I have opened several new offices/companies in both Singapore and Australia.

My most complex role was probably when I was General Manager for Gearbulk Indonesia. Not only did we manage the Gearbulk fleet in South-East Asia both commercially and operationally, but I was also responsible for a fleet of vessels. These included cement carriers under Indonesian flag operating in local waters, a floating cement bagging facility, logistic and transhipment hubs in Singapore (and later in Pasir Gudang) and Jakarta, several joint-ventures, as well as a port agency in Indonesia.

I am also proud of having been instrumental in Oiltanking building a sizeable and very successful oil storage facility in Singapore, as well as having been responsible for the building of 4 x 20,000 dwt multi-purpose vessels in Singapore (the Stamford-type). Opening the SAL-office in Fremantle and being successful in securing several high-profile oil & gas and off-shore contracts was a very rewarding experience in a field, where I had no prior experience and thus defied the sceptics and out-maneuverered well established competitors.

I first met you in Perth, Australia when you were representing Hansa Heavylift. Now that you are residing in New Zealand are you still active in shipping?

Actually, I think that the first time we met was briefly in Singapore while you were living in Indonesia. This would have been in the mid to late 90’s. We lost contact and reconnected in Perth about 15 years later. One of the beauties of shipping is the people you meet, the personal connection, and the relations that you build. I decided to take early retirement and moved to New Zealand a few years ago. Whilst I am no longer active in shipping, I still have friends, who contact me for advice and suggestions. From time to time I still get opportunities presented to me.

These days networking is paramount, would you be able and willing to assist if any of our readers need help & assistance in New Zealand or the Oceania region?

I am always willing to offer help and guidance, if I can be of any assistance. Although I am semi-retired, I’m currently working with KiwiRail in Wellington on the operational side which allows me to also take up consultancy tasks elsewhere if and when the right opportunity presents itself.

I welcome your readers to visit beautiful New Zealand and, indeed, windy Wellington. I always have time for a chat over a nice glass of New Zealand beer or wine.

Berndt Olesen
Wellington, New Zealand

Photo of Berndt in Wellington: