MEETING NEEDS, FINDING A WAY
As they have for nearly a century, agents at T. Parker Host do anything and everything to serve the multiple needs of clients.
The business – one of the premier and most well-respected full-service ship agency firms – that T. Parker Host, Sr., founded in 1923 would almost be unrecognizable to him four generations later.
From its humble, original roots in the Chesapeake Bay, T. Parker Host now has a presence in ten states along the East Coast and Gulf South, along with ports on the western coast of South America. The technology used to track cargo shipments is unmatched and updates progress in real-time, while expanded services including cargo supervision, transportation consulting, freight logistics, and stevedoring cater to the expanding needs of companies entrenched in a competitive global marketplace.
But for all that’s different, one constant remains true today as it did way back then: though T. Parker Host shepherds cargo, this is (and always will be) a people profession.
“I’ve spent 34 years on the river, and as much as things have changed, the thing that hasn’t is that this is all about trust. This is all about a relationship,” T. Parker Host Louisiana branch vice president Chris Kitsos says. “When we handle clients’ ships, we’re on their side. We save them money, telling them what to do and what not to do. So it’s a partnership, because when they grow, we grow. We carry their flag hand-in-hand. They don’t have to worry, because with that handshake is a lot of trust.”
In South Louisiana, T. Parker Host has agents and ports for about a 220-mile stretch of the Mississippi River – from the mouth at Southwest Pass to as far west as Baton Rouge. In and around the Port of South Louisiana, T. Parker Host attends vessels at terminals in Ama, Destrehan, Norco, Reserve, Gramercy and Convent.
“The general outline of the business is the same in all ports…but here on the Mississippi River, we have much more of a variety of types of cargo being loaded and a lot more ports due to the size and length of the river,” Operations Manager Jessica Maguire says. “One of the unique things here that we deal with is we have a lot of vessels that discharge in the river, clean the holds, then load another cargo outbound. That can happen at any port, but it’s really happening in the Mississippi River. So in that instance, we’re working in almost a port captain role – working with the owners and the captain and the crew to make sure they use proper procedures for cleaning the hold, the right equipment, the right chemicals to meet, for example, grain standard.
“With our growth, we’re conscious of making sure we’re not going in one specific niche of the market, that we’re growing everywhere.”
Like many companies that enjoy prosperity over a substantial swath of time, T. Parker Host trumpets eight core principles. Most are fairly predictable: people, safety, service, and integrity. But the last principle – Be Detectives – exemplifies the proactive nature of T. Parker Host’s agents and general employees. For those in the Louisiana Operations region, that explorers’ spirit means an advanced familiarity with the nuances of the area, which translates into heightened efficiency in shipping cargo.
“It’s a necessity to know (the Mississippi River),” Maguire says. “We’re not the pilot, so specific topography isn’t something an agent has to know. However, it helps to know where parts of the river have less draft, maybe there’s a sunken barge, there could be issues with bridges and their height. The more you’re aware of in advance, the less likely you’re going to run into issues. You can avoid them before they even happen.”
In Louisiana, the T. Parker Host staff meets specific client requirements for documentation and cargo supervision, including coordinating and monitoring shipments from the point of origin to terminal. Before departure and/or upon arrival, T. Parker Host staff oversees all cargo operations, ensuring procedures are carried out correctly, cargo weights are monitored, and potential hiccups are caught and resolved before they mushroom into bigger problems.
“We are the eyes and ears of the ship owner,” Kitsos says. “We have to be Johnny On The Spot when different situations come around. In fact, we just dealt with one five minutes ago. So things change rapidly and you have to be fast in adapting to that change – think fast and arrange fast.”
Maguire chimes in.
“We’re here to solve issues and avoid problems,” she says. “You have to have an answer for anything and everything, and you never know what might happen. But that can’t be an excuse, because we’re here to get the ship moving again. Because in this business, time is money.”