10 Questions: Martin Lawlor

March 5, 2019

Martin Lawlor has been chief executive of Port of Blyth and chair of its subsidiary, Transped, since 2006. Now recognised internationally as one of the UK’s offshore energy support bases, the port has enjoyed a sustained period of growth during Martin’s tenure, posting record financial results in recent years. Before joining Port of Blyth in 1994, Martin held various commercial roles at the ports of Tees and Hartlepool. In 2018, he was appointed chair of the influential British Ports Association. He is a serving council member of Maritime UK and sits on the executive group of Subsea North East

What was your first break in business?

Landing my first port job during the 1980s at what is now PD Ports on Teesside. I was a management trainee but ended up discharging cars and other cargo from vessels during the dockers’ strike among other duties. It was quite a baptism of fire but it gave me a good grounding for a port-related career.

What did you want to be growing up?

Apart from centre forward for Hartlepool United, I didn’t have a clear career ambition as a youngster. I did always feel that I would follow a commercial/ entrepreneurial path. I ran the school tuck shop and took part in car boot sales. I’ve now swapped car boots for cargo boats.

What attracted you to your current role?

I moved up to Port of Blyth in the mid-1990s for a commercial management role. What struck me at the time was the port’s huge potential and the opportunities for expansion. Working my way up to chief executive has been a privilege and it’s been great to be able to shape the port’s strategic vision.

What is your organisation’s mission?

We want to ‘be the best at what we do, take customer service to another level, add value and be different (in a good way)’. We’re well on our way to achieving this and we hope that our customers would recognise the Port of Blyth from this statement.

How do you get the best out of your staff?

I’d like to think that I am enthusiastic and passionate about what we are trying to achieve and hopefully that helps inspire the team. I try to be inclusive, give responsibilities and, therefore, the satisfaction of achievement. I also like to throw in a bit of humour along the way as if you can’t have fun at work then it makes for a long day.

What has been your career highlight?

Helping to reinvent the Port of Blyth from a paper port – which lost almost all its trade around the millennium – to the major, successful offshore energy hub that exists today. Becoming chair of the British Ports Association was also a real honour.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Losing 75 per cent of our income almost overnight [see above] and having over half a million square feet of empty warehousing focuses the mind. But we got through it.

Who or what inspires you?

I admire anyone who has made or has tried to make a difference for the better. If I, one day, can look back and feel I’ve managed to do that – in any small way – then I will be content.

What are your organisation’s short and long-term goals?

Short term, it is to continue our rapid growth in a number of sectors (offshore energy, containers, bulks, etc), generating enough profit to support ongoing development.

Long term, we want to be recognised as a regionally and nationally significant port, creating substantial wealth, jobs and economic activity for the benefit of all stakeholders.

How do you achieve a good work/life balance?

It helps that I enjoy my work. However, my family, animals (dogs, horses, chickens) and other interests (drawing cartoons, playing tennis, watching football) help keep me grounded.

Port of Blyth
01670 357 000