Inbound Logistics | April 2023

LEADERSHIP Conversations with the Captains of Industry

Dancing a Maritime Ballet, Every Day

If you want to shadow Barbara Melvin on a typical day at work, better lace up your sneakers. “You could easily be climbing on a crane or looking at a piece of equipment with a problematic part,” says Melvin, president and CEO at South Carolina Ports. “You could be standing in the truck lanes, greeting a longshoreman or heading for the gate center.” Melvin calls port operations “a maritime ballet,” and she knows the dance well. She has been with SC Ports for nearly 25 years, working in government relations and external affairs before being named COO in 2018. Promoted to president and CEO in 2022, she became the rst woman to lead a top U.S. operating container port. Melvin slowed down long enough to describe how she has grown as a leader and ll us in on recent initiatives at the port. IL: When you moved from government relations to the COO role, how did you get up to speed on all you needed to know? The transition worked because the leaders within operations took the time to teach me the ins and outs. I did a lot of listening. And I determined that my leadership should be to provide air cover. We had the best people in the business in all departments of operations. My job would be to get them the resources they needed to continue being the best in the industry as they served our ocean carrier customers and the importers and exporters. IL: What’s one experience that shaped you as a leader? When I joined the port in 1998, we were in the middle of a large conversation with our state and the local community about where to expand. The port’s vision was to build on Daniel Island, a green space that would require all new infrastructure. The community wanted us to consider redeveloping a former naval base in North Charleston. The road to an effective compromise was long and hard, but in April 2021 we opened the Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal at the naval base site. This is one of many experiences that have taught me not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The compromise that’s necessary in government relations applies in operations, too. I learned not to stumble over small things that went wrong and to focus instead on the larger things.

Barbara Melvin President and CEO South Carolina Ports

Every day, Barbara Melvin is up at 3:30 a.m. and asleep by 8:30 p.m. In between, the first woman to lead a top U.S. operating container port walks the halls, talks to people, creates an open environment for collaboration and problem-solving, and celebrates victories of any magnitude. by Merrill Douglas

14 Inbound Logistics • April 2023

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