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3 August, 2022

New Sea Swift CEO eyes smoother waters

Forget the suit-and-tie. The top boss at northern Australia’s largest shipping company wears a blue-collared hi-vis shirt and scuffed work boots to work every day.

By Samuel Davis

STYLISH suits, tablecloth dress shirts and designer shoes may be the attire of choice for most CEOs but not Sea Swift’s new boss Dwayne Freeman. 

The new head of northern Australia’s largest shipping company has worn a blue-collared hi-vis shirt and scuffed work boots every day since taking on the new role last month.

And the former Abbot Point Operations chief executive said he won’t be afraid to roll up his sleeves when required.

“I think sending those kinds of messages is critical,” Mr Freeman told Cape York Weekly.

“For me, wandering around here (in a suit and tie) just wouldn’t feel right. We work at operating sites.

“So if I’m expecting my staff to wear boots and hi-vis, then that’s what I wear.” 

A third wave of COVID-19 cases sweeping the country forced Sea Swift to make significant changes to its operations in Mr Freeman’s first week in the job. 

Limiting face-to-face contact between staff and customers and allowing some staff to work from home where possible is a priority, Mr Freeman said.

“I think it’s part-and-parcel of doing business now,” Mr Freeman said of managing virus outbreaks.

“We have restrictions in place to protect not only our workers and their families but also the communities we serve.”

And while global supply chain shortages and soaring fuel prices will affect customers, Mr Freeman said the company is working to limit their impact on costs and delivery times. 

“We’re doing everything we can on the efficiency side of the business (to keep prices down),” he said.

“It’s a huge problem not only for us but for the whole economy.

“Businesses ultimately have to pass on that fuel price (in the cost of their service) but that does come back down when the price drops as well.”

The shipping company has provided services and project freight in northern Australia for more than 35 years with depots in Cairns, Weipa, Seisia, Horn Island, Badu Island, and Thursday Island.

TROUBLED WATERS

IT has been a difficult period for Sea Swift.

Former CEO Rochelle Macdonald lasted less than a year in the role and long delays on a new vessel, the Newcastle Bay II have limited the delivery capacity of the business.

But the new CEO said he’s confident Sea Swift can grow and improve its services throughout northern Australia.

“If you’re not serving your customers well, you’ve got an issue. The business understands customer service is critical. We do a lot of work on that,” Mr Freeman said.

“I think a lot of people were very interested after a turbulent time in the last 12 months and wanted to understand how I was going to support them. I can foresee across multiple sectors growth across north Queensland.

“I see Sea Swift as a business being well-placed to take on opportunities as they arise.

“We’ve seen a lot of people from the south move to Queensland and the NT in the last few years. I expect that will drive growth and economic activity.

“My job is to steer the ship and make sure we’re prepared for what happens down the track.”

Sea Swift chairman Steve Boulton said Mr Freeman’s appointment followed an extensive recruiting process.

“Dwayne is an influential and decisive leader who has a proven track record in achieving results, delivering change, and developing strong relationships with stakeholders,” Mr Boulton said.

“We are confident that he, together with our experienced team, will continue to strengthen the company for the benefit of our customers and employees.”

Mr Freeman will be based out of Sea Swift’s Cairns office.


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