Port authority: Marcel’s wanderlust

Anyone who has spent time working in developing countries will have stories to tell.

Marcel Veilleux’s professional tales cover an unusual and wonderful spectrum, from meeting with heads of state to standing on a deserted airstrip in a war-torn country waiting for a plane that may never arrive.
In addition to traversing the African continent from Morocco to Mozambique, the Cardno senior port engineer’s remarkable 30-year career has taken him across the globe.

His expertise has proved invaluable on numerous projects in dozens of interesting locations and he says working in the port industry has never ceased to be both stimulating and challenging.
“I really enjoy the consulting part of the work, especially for new facilities where you have to select a site, layout the facilities and analyze the logistics of moving the cargo in and out,” Marcel (pictured above left in Benin) says.
“There are so many things to consider, beginning with understanding the local meteorological and oceanographic conditions that impact the ability of ships to berth to the operational analysis required to select and size the cargo handling equipment and the general layout of the facilities.
“You touch on all disciplines including oceanography, civil, mechanical, electrical, environmental, economic and financial.”
Future possibilities
Now based in Annapolis, Maryland, Marcel joined TEC (now Cardno TEC) a decade ago after 22 years with ports consultants Soros Associates.
“From the start, I found it to be a company of very talented, ethical people with high standards for quality and a strong focus on caring for its customers and employees,” he says.
And he believes it is an exciting time for the both the ports industry and Cardno.
“I see even more possibilities for growth from collaboration across regions and divisions within Cardno,” he points out.
“As the economies of developing nations improve and the demand for raw materials increases there will be demand for more port services.
"Also, container shipping lines have adopted a strategy of using larger ships to reduce cost, which is creating a demand to improve existing facilities.”
Industry evolving
This restructuring of vessel fleets to bigger container ships is one of the driving forces for significant changes within the ports business, Marcel says.
“In the 1970s, the largest container ships carried about 2,500 twenty-foot containers,” he says.
"This jumped to 3,400 in 1980, then to 5,000 in 1990 and 8,000 in 2000, before reaching 18,000 presently. This is driving the need for ports to provide deeper water and larger cranes to offload the containers.”
Language skills
Raised in rural Quebec and then a French-Canadian community in Massachusetts, Marcel’s fluency in French and English has greatly assisted his work in places such as West Africa.
“Early in my career it really helped me get interesting assignments in Gabon and Morocco and I was even tasked by management to deliver a paper in French in Tunisia, he says.
His language skills also came in handy when discussing port developments with the leaders of Senegal, Benin, São Tomé e Principe and Dominica.
However, when he found himself in Mozambique at the end of the civil war it was more good timing and fortune that led to one of his most memorable work-related experiences.
“I was in Nacala in the north to assess the port and needed to make my way back to Maputo at the other end of the country at a time when finding accommodation or transportation was very difficult,” he recalls.
“A freight forwarder told me he heard on his radio that a small plane was arriving from Nampula sometime in the afternoon.
"I remember waiting on the tarmac alone for the plane to arrive to see if there might be an empty seat back to Nampula. From Nampula I was pretty sure I could get to Maputo.
“After a while the plane arrived and I got lucky because it was returning to Nampula that afternoon. The pilot let me sit upfront with him and let me take the wheel when we were in the air. It was an interesting day.”
Marcel has worked in … Australia, Bahamas, Belgium, Benin, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Burkina Faso, Canada, Cape Verde, Chile, China, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Dominica, Egypt, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, India, Italy, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama, Portugal, São Tomé e Príncipe, Senegal, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Tanzania, Tunisia, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela, Western Sahara, and Zimbabwe.