Neville Fox reckons the stork made a mistake when it dropped him in South Africa.
“I’ve always wanted to live in New Zealand and when I came here for the first time I felt at home – it felt like I should have been born here,” says Port Taranaki’s head of marine services.
Having finally arrived at his ‘spiritual home’, he is determined to stay put. But it has been a circuitous route for the Durban-born father of four, who first went to sea as a 17-year-old engineering cadet.
Cape Town, Mombasa, the Seychelles, Perth, Sydney, Brisbane and Singapore have all been ports of call as Neville has moved from offshore engineering work to onshore management roles.
He worked for marine services provider MMA Offshore Ltd for the past 10 years, the last five as the general manager international fleet operations in Singapore. He was responsible for the operations of 36 vessels providing marine logistics services to the oil and gas industry.
Having decided to pack up, move to New Zealand, settle down and possibly do some consulting work, serendipity occurred.
“My wife and I travelled New Zealand looking for a place to live. I found a patch of land at Opunake and felt right about it straight away. We bought it in February last year and then the stars aligned and this role at Port Taranaki came up.”
Having started in the job in December, Neville has had a few months to get to know the port and its importance to the region. He believes Port Taranaki is in a great position to grow and develop as a viable business entity.
“It has a lot more to offer than purely a ship in-ship out operation and I’m really excited about the challenges it provides. I believe the oil and gas sector is going to pick up in the next 12 months and we need to be proactive and have the services available to support that offshore work.”
Keen to be hands-on, Neville divides his time between office-based management and getting out alongside the 28 staff he manages – from pilots and masters of tugs and launches, to marine engineers and support personnel.
Among his goals is improving communication between management and staff, stream-lining and improving the use of ShoreTension™, ensuring the most efficient use of port vessels, and building on the personal responsibility safety culture.
“We have a CEO who is bringing a new outlook to the business and changing the culture, which I am excited to be a part of.”