‘It’s more of an autocratic leadership style on a ship, but if you behave like an autocrat ashore you will not succeed in building a successful team’, Stuart Jones, Fleet Director, CNCo

The Maritime Telegraph correspondent  was pleased recently to speak with Mr. Stuart Jones, Fleet Director at the China Navigation Company (CNCo). Mr. Jones  had been working with the same company –  Safmarine for almost 20 years before the company was purchased by Maersk Line and he continued to work there. He left Maersk Line in the position of  the Fleet Group Manager and joined CNCo as a General Manager, Fleet in Singapore.

Mr. Jones manages to travel around the world not only for work but also for leisure with his family. He is from South Africa and has worked in Cape Town, Hong Kong, Korea, Dubai, Denmark and now he is living in Singapore. So which country does he like most?

Despite his busy schedule he still finds time for sports to exercise not only to the brain, but also to the body. He has made his way in life through trial and error so that he can go forward confidently – developing spiritually, physically, morally and, of course, financially.

We tried to get to know his priorities and what principles he follows in order to maintain his own well-being? How does he manage to combine a happy family with a successful career? Did he encounter difficulties along the way to his success, and where does he see himself in 10 years? Are there special secrets that are known only to him?  Let’s find them and learn his recipe for success together.

MT: We understand you used to be an Engineering officer. Why did you originally decide to connect your life with the sea? Was it your childhood dream to become a seafarer?

S. Jones: I am from South Africa. I grew up in a small town on the sea and I spent a lot of time sailing and fishing on boats, I grew up on boats. I wanted to travel around the world and also be on the sea. I was interested in engineering too, so a combination of those things brought me to pursue a career at sea. So, I joined the company, went through cadetship and then I became an engineer and ultimately a chief engineer. If I hadn’t gone to sea, I probably would have studied mechanical engineering. It was a good option for me at that time – study mechanical engineering, see the world and sail on ships.

MT: What about your childhood dream? Has it already come true?

S. Jones: I don’t think I ever dreamed of getting where I am now. I was pretty fortunate to be approached for a management program when I worked for Maersk Line, from where I managed to work my way up to a senior position. I never had any expectation about where I’d be at age 45.

MT: Are you from a maritime family?

S. Jones: My grandfather was Scottish and a sailor. When he arrived in Cape Town, he fell in love with the city and the mountains. He met my grandmother and decided to stay. He found work as a stevedore in Cape Town and worked there until his retirement.

MT: What was your first impression when you joined the vessel as a cadet and what impressed you most of all?

S. Jones: I remember that day very clearly. Before joining the first vessel as cadets we had to go through 3 months of navy training.  When we joined our ship I was enthused. I remember being at the door of the second engineer’s cabin in my brand new boiler suit. We just couldn’t wait to get started in the engine room – we were so excited.  We worked so hard on that twin engined ship and when we eventually arrived in Europe it was great!

MT: Did you face any extreme situations while sailing which shocked you?

S. Jones: There was always bad weather to contend with, but no serious situations that concerned my life or safety. I think being a sailor then was much more fun than it is now. Being a sailor today is so much more serious – more policies and procedures and responsibilities. We used to be in port longer and had much larger crews – about 30 or 40 people. It was a lot of fun. I think these days being a seafarer is a very serious profession with a lot of responsibility and accountability.

MT: You left your carrier at sea and came ashore in 2000. Why did you decide to do that?

S. Jones: I was approached by management when I worked in Maersk Line and offered a position in a Senior Officer management training program. After passing the entry tests I left sea service and continued my career ashore.

I lived in Denmark, Korea, Hong Kong and Dubai during that period while making regular trips to Copenhagen for management, leadership, finance and other courses. When I graduated from the programme I continued to work in Cape Town as a senior superintendent. When the incumbent Director of Ship management retired, I was fortunate to be promoted into the position. Due to financial crisis in 2009 we had to close the ship management department in Cape Town and I moved with my family to Singapore in 2010. After two years with Maersk Line as  Fleet Group Manager, I joined The China Navigation Company, which then only owned 13 ships. The company had embarked on a fleet expansion program which saw the fleet size grow to 56 vessels over a period of 4 years.

MT: Is there any difference between being a leader on board a vessel and being one ashore?

S. Jones: Actually no, if you are a good leader on a ship and have good command and management skills it helps you in a shore environment. However, on a ship a captain is in charge and he has to command – it’s not a democracy. It is a little bit different in a shore environment where you need to consider people’s opinions and ideas more than a captain or a chief engineer who usually have considerably more experience and knowledge than their subordinates. It’s more of an autocratic leadership style on the ship, but if you behave like an autocrat ashore you will not succeed in building a successful team.

MT: Do you like working on shore?

S. Jones: Well, the first two years I just wanted to go back to the sea, because my job now is 24\7, there are always problems around the world where ever the ships are. When you’re a chief engineer you work for 4 months and after that you rest for 2 months and nobody phones you – there is no responsibility, no boss when you are on leave. Now, if my phone rings I know there is something serious.

MT: What do you like most about your job and profession now?

S. Jones: I like that responsibility now. I am responsible for building ships, for dry-docking, for operation, crewing  and projects. This is a whole lot more challenging than only being responsible for the operation of a single vessel. You can learn every day when you’re involved in design and new technologies.

MT: What kind of leadership do you use in your team?

S. Jones: First of all I am very particular in my selection of people. I invest a lot of time during the recruitment process to make sure that I hire the best people that I can possibly find. When one has very competent and skilled team members they can be given the freedom and trust to carry out their jobs which usually results in good teamwork and job satisfaction.

MT: As we know you are from South Africa. How often do you visit your native country? Were you born there?

S. Jones: I go back to South Africa about once a year, which is probably more than I’d like to. I was born there and I lived there for all my life and I saw everything there, I’d rather use my vacation time to visit new countries. But my wife and my children have family in South Africa and go back annually. As I have British and South African citizenship I don’t think I will return to South Africa permanently.

MT: What is your favorite country for resting?

S. Jones: I don’t have a favorite country. I travel so much on business and 4 times a year I travel with my family on vacation. Once a year we vacation in the northern hemisphere such as America, France, England or Italy. We will also visit South Africa in the summer as well as two holidays in the Asia region.

MT: What is the best country for living?

S. Jones: Singapore is a very easy place to live; it is very orderly, very well run. It is very safe as there is no crime or drugs. It is however a rather crowded city and hence the need for us to take our regular vacations.

MT: We understand you like sport, especially motor racing, running and Formula 1. Maybe you have a sports car or even took part in such competitions?

S. Jones: I wish I did, but no. Singapore is not a convenient country for that. I enjoy following Formula 1. As a South African I like rugby and cricket. My son plays rugby, we spend weekends transporting him to his different matches. I cycle a lot and as a family we enjoy scuba diving.

MT: Is it possible to combine a happy family and a successful career? And how do you manage to do this?

S. Jones: Yes, it is. For me I work long hours and even on weekends. What we do, as I said, it is take  our 4 vacations and I try to focus only on my family then.

MT: Do you have any pets?

S. Jones: No. I live in the eleventh floor flat apartment and when we leave for long vacations it is not easy to leave a cat or a dog.

MT: What is your recipe of success?

S. Jones: First of all have to be absolutely committed to your job. If you do your job, do it properly. And always put a lot of effort into building the right team. Once you’ve got a good team,  which I have, and everyone knows their responsibilities and what they need to do, then you can really accomplish things.

MT: What difficulties did you face along the road to your success?

S. Jones: I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. If you work very really hard and do very well bosses will recognize that. I worked very hard at sea and it was recognized and I was invited to move ashore into a great training program. It kept going from success to success. My mantra was to work hard and trust that it would be recognized and rewarded. I have been fortunate to work with really great people.

MT: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

S. Jones: I am an engineer and I am a ship manager and I don’t aspire to being a managing director as ultimately I am a technically minded person. For me my future is to continue what I’m doing now but maybe in a different country. So doing the same job in the same level but perhaps in Europe.

MT:  And, of course, our favourite question…Let’s imagine you found a bottle with a genie, what three wishes would you have?

S. Jones: I would choose Health, Happiness and Longevity over money and status.