Mr. Kumar served almost 10 years at sea with Neptune Orient Lines as a seafarer and worked his way up to Chief Officer on unlimited vessel tonnage with American President Lines. In 1999, he took a shore role as Operations Manager for a mega container terminal with Westport Malaysia in Port Klang, Malaysia. He would then go on to be Planning Manager with CSAV in Hong Kong, followed by a 7 years stint as General Manager of Operations with CMA–CGM at their Headquarters in Marseille, France.
Since relocating to the USA, he started his footpath as a Marine Manager in Long Beach/Los Angeles, then moved to Seattle to develop an alternative intermodal gateway to the Midwest. Most recently, he was Director of Operations & Logistics (Americas) for CMA-CGM. In this role, he headed the operations, logistics, and projects in the region.
If this diverse job experience wasn’t enough, Mr. Kumar also holds a Degree in Nautical Science and a Master’s Degree in Marine Operations from the Australian Maritime College.
1. Prior to your previous role with CMA-CGM as Director of Operations of the Americas, you lived and worked on four different continents and had many years of experience as a seafarer starting way back in 1990. How has that experience impacted your current role at CMA-CGM?
There is no shortcut to knowledge other than practical experience. The experience that one gains over a period of time in dealing with people, experiencing challenges, and in dealings in the maritime industry. Experience helps you to make the correct decisions in times of crisis and where a quick decision is critical.
2. Which specific experience in the past has had the greatest impact on your own professional development?
Setting up CMA-CGM large vessels in the east Mediterranean and in the Black Sea. The challenges were new to me and so was the working culture. To my surprise, I managed to work very well with the local shipping community to set up a successful service. It benefited not only the organization but also the local economy, shipping community, and the people. It was very rewarding.
3. More and more shipping lines seem to be initiating joint ventures with terminals. Beyond generating a positive ROI, what are the desired outcomes for large liners?
The current state of the industry created an environment in which these efforts have to be taken one day at a time. We know what will be the consequences of an imact due to a previous decision. Carriers have exhausted all the general ideas from the economy - speed, to building larger vessels, to ‘trying to increase rates,’ to reducing manpower. Carriers are looking at diversifying their income by investing or buying shares in marine terminals and inland logistic services, primarily warehousing and storage depots.
4. How do you see shipping line and agency presence evolving in the Latin American and Caribbean market over the next five years? What factors may or may not be contributing to the opening and closing of regional offices and agencies?
As long as the economy of the Caribbean countries are able to bounce back, we will continue to see good purchasing power parity - hence a consistent business. Countries will also be in need of investments in infrastructure and technology from outside, an example being the recent Chinese government investment in rebuilding of the port in Antigua.
The Caribbean population has a low growth rate and large migration, especially to the U.S. - this does not help. One example is the island of Puerto Rico: the economy will not bounce back if the skilled labor continues to migrate.
5. There are a lot of issues that are plaguing the maritime industry today beyond just the demise of Hanjin. We know you’re an innovator. In your view of the world, where do you see the next advances in the industry taking place? What problems do you feel need to be addressed the most?
Every action has a reaction, so our action today will play a major role in shaping the economy of the future. We must keep this in mind. The business choices we make are important and should be done with a genuine and careful assessment instead of simply replicating our competitors that make bold and abrupt ones. There should be differentiation between competitors’ services and not the same offering - this is what the shippers are expecting. I believe in solutions through technology, and it should be the one that is not complex, yet advances the industry.