Why Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers is so vital for Teesside

Posted on Thursday, August 17, 2017

Please find below the interview published on the Middlesbrough newspaper "The Evening Gazette". The article was published in the paper about a week ago together with a video interview.

Nikki Sayer interview Aug 2017 2

Nikki Sayer FICS of Casper Shipping (Image: Peter Reimann)

Why is it important that Nikki Sayer is the region's new Vice Chairman of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers? She tells Mike Hughes that she wants to highlight the crucial work being done along the length of the Tees

There are 85 glorious miles of the River Tees - so plenty of chances to see it and experience it as it rises in the Pennines and flows past Middleton in Teesdale and Barnard Castle, Darlington, Yarm, Stockton and Middlesbrough and a hundred places between.

For people like Nikki Sayer and the thousands who work on the river, the Tees is more than a tourist attraction, a fishing favourite or something they need to cross to get to work. It is the lifeblood of the region, and it is now her job to try to let as many people know that and to protect and nurture the industries that thrive on it.

Nikki works for Casper Shipping, in a bright and modern building they share with global safety and support company Svitzer just a few paces from the river and a few yards from the Riverside Stadium. As the UK's leading independent port agency company, Casper looks after essentials like mooring and documentation for vessels arriving and leaving along the river.

They are also members of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers, and Nikki's appointment last month as the region's first female Vice Chairman - which will lead to her being chairman for two years - confirms a long relationship. Casper has been in Middlesbrough since 1872 and the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers was founded 39 years later as the professional body for all members of the commercial shipping industry worldwide.

Nikki Sayer interview Aug 2017

Nikki Sayer FICS of Casper Shipping (Image: Peter Reimann)

"I have been in the shipping industry for 20 years now, having started with British Steel where my boss Howard Dodds pushed me to get into the institute and take the exams - which I wasn't too sure about at the time," she admits.

"I was in my early twenties and it just didn't sound like much fun, but he was the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers chairman and anyone who worked for him on the shipping side had to be in it. We are all very passionate about what it does for the industry and the benefits it can bring, and for me it has taken me round the world to Dubai for three years and to Australia.

"But I couldn't wait to get back here and into the industry again. I missed the fact that everyone knows each other and that it is vibrant and so interesting, particularly when you see what goes sailing past our window every day.

"I have always loved the job, but because of my experience and my career I can see the benefit of anybody - man or woman - getting involved. You feel as if you have really achieved something, and I am certainly proud that I have got this far because this is not an industry for the shy and retiring types, so I am passionate about getting more women involved, because it has always been very male-dominated."

The skills gap is as much of an issue here as anywhere on Teesside, and while anyone can ask for work on the river, the commitment needed to get the the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers exams is the key to many careers. The institute delivers TutorShip - its main educational programme - directly from its London head office and through 15 teaching centres worldwide. Every year, thousands of students sit Professional Qualifying Examinations and can then apply for membership.

"It really is quite a commitment and I know it can be hard going when you are young, so we recognise that there need to be other ways of doing it," said Nikki.

"There are a few ways in without taking the specific exams, and we are trailblazing a port agency apprenticeship which will support employers through subsidised training and employment and also in the provision of training and skills to new employees."

The North East, with about 76 members, is one of the most active Branches of the Institue, which means it has a higher profile and a louder voice.

"That is from quite a small area and is a lot more than many regions, which means we have 76 of the most experienced people in the industry." said Nikki.

"We need that experience and the young people coming through because shipping and logistics is only going to grow in an area like this. Container ships and cruise ships are getting bigger as the quantity of goods needed around the world increases - just think of the amount we order online from anywhere across the world.

"And there are huge range of roles within the sector, not just on board our ships, but in offices like this at Casper Shipping where it can almost be a career for life once you know the people and the terminology and how the business works."

As The Gazette's  Invest in Teesside campaign has been showing, the skills pipeline starts in the classroom, with an awareness of the options and the right guidance for the undecided generation. Logistics covers myriad disciplines, so the pipeline can even start with a carefully targeted division of that umbrella term into its career possibilities.

"I worked for a while at Middlesbrough College and we did a 'speed dating' session to let as many kids as possible know what was out there," she says.

"But none of them knew what logistics was, so I told them 'do you want to earn a lot of money, travel the world and have a job for life? Then let me tell you about this whole industry that is out there'.

"The High Tide charity (co-founded by Casper Shipping Chairman Kevin Shakesheff and with offices in the building) also plays a vital part in making young adults and students aware of the industry at a very early stage. The important thing is that everyone is trying to pull it all together."

The Gazette has reported on many projects that give great hope for the future of Teesside, from the arrival of MGT Power and Sirius Minerals to the masterplan for the future of the former SSI site. These are all centred around our river, proving its continuing value as the vein that keeps our heart pumping.

The work of organisations like the Institute is hugely important in making people aware of its heritage and its value as a job creator.