Regime change at Port of Brisbane

4 August 2015

Port of Brisbane CEO

New Port of Brisbane CEO Roy Cummins has been in the job two months now and sees huge potential for the port, which handles over $50 billion of international freight each year – but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Roy replaced outgoing CEO Russell Smith at the start of June on returning to Australia after being  based internationally for the past nine years.

With more than 25 years’ experience in the ports industry, Roy returned home  with his wife and two teenage children, ready to enjoy the quality of life the rest of Brisbane knows all too well.

For the past six years he was based in Russia, working for Global Ports Investments Ltd – the largest stevedoring group in Russia and Eastern Europe. Previous roles in Australia saw him operate from bases in Sydney and Melbourne.

He says his decision to return was two-pronged; professional and personal. Professionally, the  opportunity to join PBPL as CEO and run what’s considered to be a high-profile port with strategic importance to Queensland was too good an opportunity to refuse. The Port of Brisbane is a world-class infrastructure asset with incredible potential for growth, and Roy believes the opportunity to manage this asset with a team of professionals will be a career highlight.

On a personal level, the timing was good. He was keen for his teenage children to experience the Australian lifestyle, acknowledging they’re an active family and noting that that sort of lifestyle was hard to accommodate in Moscow (past six years) and Saigon (three years prior). 

One month into his term, Roy describes the challenges and opportunities he sees ahead for the Port of Brisbane.

What are the challenges facing the Port of Brisbane and Brisbane as a whole?

The Port of Brisbane is a driver of economic growth throughout South East Queensland and plays a critical role in supporting the development of Brisbane and our state more broadly. The port currently handles in excess of $50 billion worth of freight each year, including more than one million containers. By 2040, it is forecast the port will handle approximately 4.5 million containers annually. 

The greatest challenge for the Port of Brisbane is ensuring we have adequate infrastructure connectivity to support trade and economic growth for Brisbane and the state. Current rail constraints mean almost all forward container freight growth will move by road to and from the Port of Brisbane. This will result in more than 14 million truck movements for containers alone, meaning significant congestion on South East Queensland roads.  A long-term, efficient and balanced modal solution needs to be developed and requires support and investment from government and industry. 

With this in mind, our key focus will be to work in partnership with our customers to enhance logistics linkages with our hinterland. The significant economic shifts occurring in Asia are increasing global demand for high-quality Australian agricultural products. In order to meet this increasing global food demand, agricultural exporters in our hinterland must have dedicated access to market via the Port of Brisbane. 

We also need to advocate for reforms to coastal trade and shipping in the Port of Brisbane and Australia as a whole, which would provide a cost-effective and sustainable domestic freight transport solution, significantly lessening the growing reliance on road transport across the country. 

What are some of the opportunities for the Port of Brisbane and the city as a whole in the next 10 to 20 years?

Significant opportunities for growth exist for the Port of Brisbane in a number of business streams. Our current focus remains on balancing modal share and enhancing logistics linkages to the port, however other areas of opportunity include:

  • Cruise – we are currently investigating options to enhance the cruise market through Brisbane.  
  • Supply Chain Solutions – working with our customers to help them achieve efficiencies and improve productivity for their businesses.
  • Bulk product – there are opportunities to significantly grow trade in this commodity base through investment and collaboration among industry. 
  • Future Port Expansion – our strategic location provides opportunities for trade growth and infrastructure development, while avoiding congestion.
  • Improving existing infrastructure – we are currently undertaking works on the $110 million Port Drive upgrade, which will increase efficiency, improve safety and reduce congestion into the port. 

What has been a career highlight for you?

I’ve been very fortunate to have such a varied career in the ports industry spanning over 25 years in Australia and internationally. I consider my most recent appointment as CEO of the Port of Brisbane a definite career highlight.

Managing a world-class infrastructure asset with such potential for growth is an exciting challenge, and I’m looking forward to working with the PBPL team and our stakeholders to drive opportunities that benefit the port, Brisbane and the state. 

Another memorable career experience was my involvement in the construction of the multi-million dollar Saigon Premier Container Terminal, a ‘greenfield’ port development project. This project required me to consult with a foreign government to ensure seamless investment with private companies. This was a huge learning experience where I developed a number of skills that I bring with me into my role as CEO of the Port of Brisbane. 

Is Brisbane under-rated in terms of its port facilities? If so, why do you think this is?

Absolutely. I’ve worked in numerous locations around the world and have seen very few examples of such a premium-class port as Brisbane. Many other ports are constrained by their location and inability to accommodate expansion. The Port of Brisbane has been blessed with the foresight to build at the mouth of the Brisbane River – a strategic location free from urban encroachment and suitable for long-term growth. 

Brisbane also boasts world-class, state-of-the-art port infrastructure – it is the only Australian port to host three stevedoring operations, all of which use automated container-handling equipment. The PBPL board has an ongoing appetite to invest in modern infrastructure, which will support the port’s long-term expansion strategy. 

What are you looking forward to most about working in Brisbane?<

Professionally, I’m excited by the challenges that come with managing a high-profile port with such potential for growth and expansion. I’m looking forward to working with our board and executive team to capitalise on new opportunities and invest in long-term growth. 

Personally, I’m looking forward to enjoying the Australian quality of life with my family. We are an outdoors family who enjoy Brisbane’s warm climate, scenery, fresh food and interesting people. 

On a lighter note, you have previously studied French and German. How much do you use those languages for business? Or was it more of a personal pursuit?

I studied French and German at university with the intention of having an international career. I have never had to use those specific languages in my career but due to the locations I have worked, I can also now speak Dutch and Russian. My knowledge of the French language does help when we spend time at our property in France!

The Port of Brisbane is one of Australia’s fastest-growing and most dynamic multi-cargo ports, handling over $50 billion of international freight and equivalent to over 15 per cent of Queensland’s Gross State Product.

Owned by Q Port Holdings, the Port of Brisbane Pty Ltd (PBPL) is responsible for developing and maintaining port infrastructure and facilities, and for the provision of key services including maintaining navigable access to the port for commercial shipping, and the operation of the Brisbane Multi-modal Terminal.