The Customer Is Always Right

The AAPA’s new CEO aims to put members first

In October of 2018, the CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), Kurt Nagle, announced that he would be retiring by the fall of 2019. The association’s executive committee began their search to fill the big shoes that Mr. Nagle would be leaving behind, but it didn’t take them long to find the man who could do it. They unanimously voted in favor of Christopher J. Connor to be the AAPA’s next President and CEO.

Connor will begin the transition into his new position on September 23, and will fully assume the role on October 16, the last day of AAPA’s Annual Convention and Expo in Norfolk, VA. Kurt Nagle will be working with Connor to make the transition smooth and seamless before he officially retires the day Connor takes over.

Connor is no stranger to the industry. With a career in shipping that spans over 35 years, he’s worked in a variety of capacities and understands that each member port has a unique character with specific needs and concerns.

The diversity and the connectedness that the shipping industry brings to the world is a large part of why Connor began working in the shipping industry in 1981, just after graduating from Villanova University. “The world is this great big place, and when I got involved in the business, what I loved was that shipping connected this big world and made it easier to understand. The cultural differences, difficulties and challenges of the world were brought together through trade,” Connor stated.

The AAPA’s decision to bring him on as President and CEO is almost a no-brainer.

“It’s a great combination,” Connor said. “I have a love for shipping and trade and recent experience working in the public policy arena. I’m just fortunate enough to be the lucky guy AAPA’s Executive Committee offered the opportunity to.”

Connor retired from his position as CEO of Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics (WWL) in January of 2017 and shortly thereafter joined the Board of diversified shipping and logistics provider Pasha. On behalf of Pasha, Connor subsequently joined the Board of American Maritime Partnership (AMP).AMP is a coalition of Domestic maritime interests promoting Public Policy initiatives. He plans to bring a lifetime of working in the industry and his recent experience in the public policy arena to support the AAPA and its member ports.

“Because of my experience in the shipping business, my orientation is very customer-focused and is driven by what the customers want. In this case, the customers are the AAPA members, so my focus will be on understanding each member’s unique characteristics and needs, and to fight for them,” Connor said.

That mission includes advocating for legislation that serves the members, as well as using the AAPA as an educational platform to share best practices, research, analysis and other ways to improve each port. One of his first courses of action is to work with the executive committee and the AAPA management team to put together a plan for the future that will be representative of the needs of the member ports. Connor sees the AAPA as the unified voice of the port industry in the US, Canada, Caribbean and Latin America. One of the organization’s biggest strengths is the diversity of its member ports. Connor enjoys learning more about each of them in an effort to unify the member’s needs.

“Harnessing that diversity into a good strategy to accomplish what we want is a huge focus of mine,” Connor said.

As the AAPA sails into a new era, their member ports can rest assured that they have a competent and caring captain at the helm, steering them into a bright future.

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