Global Ports Holding
Operating 17 ports in 9 countries, including Turkey, Global Ports Holding has employees from 17 different nationalities. The senior management is based in London, Istanbul and Barcelona. Emre Sayın, CEO of the company, says that it is challenging to find experienced personnel in cruise port operations; “We got Havana’s general manager from Chile, the operations manager is Catalan and we appointed someone from China with Spanish origin as head of finance in Havana. It is challengin to find someone to manage the port in the way that we want. Either we chose someone who knows the cruise operation and we teach how to manage the port in our way, or we choose someone who knows service and hospitality and we teach the cruise business.” Mr. Sayın says that their next target is the Caribbean and Americas, as well he underlines the need for a homeport in Istanbul.
Global Ports Holding, a subsidiary of Global Investment Holdings, operates 15 cruise ports in 9 countries, including Turkey, a total of 17 ports together with the two commercial ports. They are the world's largest cruise port operator. Operating ports in Kusadasi, Bodrum, Antalya in Turkey; Cuba, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Croatia, Montenegro, Malta and Singapore abroad, Global Ports Holding has headquarters in London. The company, with employees from 17 different nationalities, also has operations headquarters in Istanbul and Barcelona. The top executives of the company are distributed between Istanbul, London and Barcelona.
Global Ports Holding CEO Emre Sayın says that the company's next target is to grow and thrive in the Caribbean or elsewhere in the Americas. “The cruise side is our priority, but also our commercial ports (in Antalya and Montenegro) are well managed and profitable ports, supporting the growth of the business.”
Is it hard to find professionals who will work at the cruise ports?
It is challenging to find someone to manage the port in the way that we want. There is always a process, either we choose someone who knows the cruise operation and we teach how to manage the port in our way, or we chose someone who knows service and hospitality and we teach the cruise business, we have very good examples of both.
For example, we got Havana’s general manager from Chile, the operations manager is Catalan and we appointed someone from China with Spanish origin as head of finance in Havana, Cuba. One of them knows the industry very well and the other two have been trained by us. And while they are being trained, we ensure that they spend time at different ports for them to learn different things. We manage with a small team. What is important to me is to have agility and an entrepreneurial spirit. I'm talking about corporate entrepreneurship. If needed, an operations manager has the knowledge to berth a ship alone. We also use flexible work force. Our total number of employees is 650-700, but 300 more people are working seasonally.
Do you find managers through headhunters?
Sometimes we use headhunters, sometimes LinkedIn, we also use our industry network on social media.
How many people are in senior management?
8 people. 6 out of which are women. There are women in marketing, law, finance and HR. Some of the top management is in Barcelona, some in London and some in Istanbul. Barcelona, London and Istanbul are the main centers, but we also have employees in Miami, Edinburgh, and Valletta.
How many different nationalities are there?
We have employees from 17 different countries.
What kind of cultural differences do you experience?
I worked in international companies and while working there the cultural difference did not go beyond sense of humor or being late to the meetings. You see the real cultural difference here. It's very enjoyable, when we meet at a meeting, we are together with a real Sicilian, real Chilean or a true Catalan.
The company culture is very important in our organization as we are a small number of people spread all over the world. We are also doing something new in the sector, it is not a job that is already in the mold. We're rebuilding everything we do, setting standards. Our industry is 20-30 years behind the airports. We are trying to close the 20-years gap in 3-5 years.
How do you manage the business in such scattered locations?
We are doing business with people from all around the world, in two levels. We have routine meetings for day to day activities, operations, marketing activities, business development, network management. There are weekly meetings with the headquarters team, and monthly meetings with our port manager and their teams via videoconference. In addition, every 3-4 months we have face-to-face meetings at one of our port destinations with all the managers attending. These are the meetings where we talk about more strategic issues to improve the existing network.
Then there is the business development and new port additions. This side of the business moves very fast and requires a detailed know-how. The governmental relations are interestingare and we are always in contact with countries all around the world to create new ideas and of course understand their priorities in our field. A cruise port project is overseen by all levels of government, from the Prime Minister to the Minister of Transport and the Mayor.
Our Focus is the Caribbean
What is the target of the company, are there any new projects?
The Caribbean is our current focus point. There are several projects that we are looking into in the Americas, even from Alaska to Asia.
How many ports do you intend to operate in 5 years?
We aim to increase the number of passengers rather than just focusing on the number of ports we operate. Currently, we host over 7 million passengers annually at our ports.
In the next 5 years, the berth capacity of the cruise industry will increase by 50%. The new ship builds capacity will increase by 50% as well. This means the number of customers will also increase by 50%. Our aim is to make sure that our ports are able to welcome this increase and above.
Istanbul needs a Homeport
What type of a cruise destination is Turkey?
As a destination, Turkey is most loved by the cruise passengers. When we look at Istanbul and Kusadasi, these 2 cities are very important destinations with high potentials. If you go to a tropical island, your next destination will be the same. But when you visit Istanbul, there isn’t another place that you can compare it to. The only issue is the events in 2016. The industry was doing very well until 2016 then there were security concerns.
Do you have a port project in Istanbul?
There is a need for homeport in Istanbul. The cruise holidays should start from Istanbul. We do have a project and we are in contact with the government, planning a long-term investment with the aim of turning the port into one of the biggest ports in Europe. Today, Istanbul is the most intriguing city in Europe where ships can dock and see a historical, interesting and big city.
We are operating Barcelona, the biggest cruise port in Europe. We can do the same in Istanbul: embark passengers from here. We have the capacity, a beautiful airport and a historical city.
Where can this homeport be?
In my opinion Yenikapi. It is close by both the airport and the city. We present it to the cruise lines as well and they always have positive feedback. This should be the biggest port in Europe.
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This Article has been translated from Turkish.