EXCLUSIVE: Integrity and managing the most advanced port in Malaysia

Lee Kok Leong, our special correspondent, talks to Marco Neelsen, CEO of Port of Tanjung Pelepas, on why it is important to have integrity as a guidepost to making business decisions.

Lee Kok Leong, our special correspondent, talks to Marco Neelsen, CEO of Port of Tanjung Pelepas (PTP), on why it is important to have integrity as a guidepost to making business decisions. Marco also talks about the concrete steps the company has taken to ensure integrity when interacting with all stakeholders.

PTP is Malaysia’s most technologically advanced container terminal.  However, what is more impressive is that PTP has enshrined the concept of integrity as one of the company’s core values.

Integrity in action can be seen throughout the company’s polices, corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs and the strong emphasis given to it by the management team, with the CEO taking a personal responsibility in ensuring that the message is cascaded down to all 3,500 staff.

PTP is an industry leader at the forefront not only in terms of technology but in also taking a leadership stance on focusing on integrity in its everyday operations, involving employees, vendors and the community at large.

Marco has more than 20 years’ experience in the maritime industry. He joined PTP as CEO in November 2016. Prior to this, he served Buss Port Logistics in Hamburg as CEO, leading a portfolio of 12 terminals in Germany, Netherlands and Turkey. He also spent 10 years in the Middle East with AP Moller Terminals.

Can you please explain why integrity is important to PTP?

“We are a service provider, and we need to keep our integrity high to build trust with customers. We have to show that when customers hand over their cargoes to us, they can trust us to handle them in a reliable way.

“Integrity also means that we need to have open communications with customers. Sometimes we have issues, and we have to be transparent and show customers that we are not hiding anything.

“For our staff, we expect them to show integrity in their work.  In this regard, they have all signed a pledge with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

“From the company’s viewpoint, we manage our employee with integrity. Some of our guys have been with us since day one, 20 years ago.  It is important to us that as they get older and have health issue, we will not just let them go.

“We want to show our employees we have integrity and we will look after them. We want to make sure that they recover, go back to work and continue to support their families. Also, as an employer, we value their experience and don’t want to lose them.  They have good productivity and they can be good teachers for the next generation.”

Recently, PTP and Social Security Organization (SOCSO) have signed an agreement to help insured employees suffering from work-related injury or invalidity to be rehabilitated as soon as possible in order for them to return to work.

The program takes a proactive approach in helping the insured person in dealing with injuries or diseases, providing them the opportunity to resume safe working activities as soon as it is medically possible. PTP is also providing a designated rehabilitation space, as well as various other forms of assistance.

How does PTP ensures that the message of integrity and anti-corruption gets pass down all the way from the top to the ground?

“Integrity comes in many forms, but the most important traits that are expected amongst PTP staff are to always have open and transparent communication, to work diligently, responsibly as well as to always demonstrate honesty and good judgement in their day to day work.”

In your opinion, what do you think differentiate PTP?

“Today, the hardware is not a differentiator anymore.  It is the same hardware basically for every port. The same brand, same model, maybe different colors. The differentiator is the software.  It is twofold; not only the IT software but also the people.

“Our people are Malaysian and they grow up around here, around PTP.  Their parents are fishermen and now they work for PTP.

“In my opinion, what makes us different is really the mindset and our people. We invest a lot of money in our people, in leadership development training, and mindset change. For example, when crane drivers are promoted to supervisors, they may not automatically be a good supervisor, because a different skill set is needed for the new job.

“Therefore, we have to give the proper training to make sure they have the right mindset to take on the expanded and new responsibility. We need to make sure they get the right skills to succeed.

“The other system we have in place to develop people is a structural and ongoing one called “Lean For All”. It taps the knowledge of our 3,500 staff and gathers their feedback on how to improve workflow and processes. The aim is to make operations lean throughout the whole company.

“We truly believe that the people actually doing the work know what works best. What I want is for the staff to constantly think about how to improve their work. If something went wrong yesterday, they can automatically adopt the right mindset to analyze the issue and make improvement.

“Our journey towards improvement is not so much coming from me.  I am here to make sure there is a sound system and facilitate it.  But I am not the one who has the hands-on ideas to make things better.

“As I said, I ensure our people have the right mindset, which is our strategic differentiator. Our people have the ability and desire to do things better, they contribute ideas and are rewarded for what has been implemented.

“All my competitors can come and see the hardware and technology but they do not see what is inside our people, the mindset they have. The secret to changing their mindset is how we treat our people with integrity, by taking care of them, their family and the environment they are living in. For them, PTP is everything.

“I cannot go to Gelang Patah without meeting at least 50 of my people with their PTP uniforms on. They’re wearing them during their free time, not because they are forced to but because they are proud of working at PTP. For them, PTP is more than just a job.”

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