Breakbulk NextGen – Thomas Bek

Thomas Bek

Global director oil, gas and industrial projects
Blue Water Shipping

Nominated by:
Jeannin Matthieu, group logistics and warehousing manager, SBM Offshore.

Reason for nomination:
“Ability to understand customer needs and put plans into motion. Provides solutions. Strong reactivity and entrepreneur mind-set. Positive attitude even during strong challenges.”

How you chose this industry:

I always wanted to work in an international environment and live abroad for a period. Shipping seemed like the perfect opportunity, and I was lucky that in my second year in the industry, I started to work in our oil, gas and industrial projects division.

Industry’s significance, from your perspective:

There are so many different opportunities within shipping and logistics as well as future career opportunities. It is an industry that truly lets young people evolve and grow. My experience is that young people are quickly empowered, and given responsibility very early in their careers.

A mentor or industry leader who greatly influenced you:

Kurt Skov started Blue Water Shipping back in 1972, and it has grown into an international logistics company with more than 1,700 employees globally. He has always been very hard working, humble and extremely caring about his colleagues. He talks to everyone in the company. You are allowed to make mistakes as long as you learn from them and you do not repeat them too many times. He empowers his colleagues, and young people are given a lot of opportunities if they have the right attitude.

Professional background:

I started as a trainee at Blue Water in 1996 and have held various positions. In 2003 I moved to Houston to start up the Blue Water office. Today I am the global director for our energy and projects division that includes oil, gas and industrial projects as well as wind logistics. In energy and projects, we have 16 offices and 310 colleagues.

Management style:

For me it is important that everyone knows the direction we are going and that everyone sees themselves as a part of the team. Open communication is important and I like to be challenged by my co-workers. I believe that positive criticism is needed if you want to continue to develop your business and yourself as a manager and leader. I am straightforward and I do not micromanage. I trust my colleagues around me as I expect them to trust me. I am very open to new ideas, and I also allow that mistakes are made as long as we learn from them and improve.

Long-term professional goals:

I want to get the most out of the opportunities that come to me, and my long-time goal is to increase the business at Blue Water and expand the business within our energy and projects division. I plan to complete my MBA within two years, and hopefully this will give me a lot of theoretical experience that I can use in my current and future positions.

Role as a developing industry leader:

I believe that my more than 23 years of experience at age 42 gives me a good foundation. I have seen good times and also experienced several crises, including the drop in oil prices in the late-1990s and again in recent years. I have played a role in developing project activities at Blue Water for more than two decades, including being part of the team that secured the US$1.3 billion project TCO FGP. This has been a real game changer for Blue Water. My operational background will always be very important for me and it will always be important for me to stay close to the operations as well as the clients.

Most important industry issue:

To some extent, the industry is still struggling with its overall reputation and how well it is doing when attracting educated young people. Also, the importance of logistics is often not valued and respected enough. Providing industry-specific education is also a challenge in some regions and countries. It is important that we invest in young people and ensure a general increase in the education level in shipping and logistics. Finally, I would also say we need visions and new ideas. Some companies are better at this than others, but in general, our industry has not been good at evolving. We must be very careful and ensure that we continue to show how we add value to our clients’ projects or supply chain.