San Diego veteran shapes the future for Port of New Orleans

It’s important to note that Christian gained 14 years of valuable experience with the Port of San Diego

By ·

Brandy Christian began service as the president and CEO at the Port of New Orleans this past January after having spent two years as the port’s chief operating officer.

It’s important to note, however, that Christian gained 14 years of valuable experience with the Port of San Diego, a tenure that culminated in her role as vice president, strategy and business development. We recently caught up with her to learn how that valuable Pacific Rim experience influences her current management style.

Logistics Management: How has the experience you gained on the West Coast helped you in the Gulf?

Brandy Christian: The ports are similar in that both have breakbulk and container cargo operations, a robust and growing cruise business, large real estate portfolios—though New Orleans’ is more industrial than San Diego—and terminals that are located in the heart of urban areas alongside residential neighborhoods.

LM: Is there a distinct West Coast management style that translates well in New Orleans?

Christian: Effective management transcends geography. My style is straightforward and focused on succeeding with our mission as an economic engine. I value transparency and open, honest dialogue throughout the organization, and I’m working to ensure that employees have a clear path for development, both through the port’s organizational structure and with employee engagements efforts that will be implemented over the next few years. My management style reflects my background in quality management systems, which has been helpful throughout my career.

LM: You’ve been on the job for six months. What have you learned so far?

Christian: Quite a bit. The Port of New Orleans is well positioned geographically, and we’re also fortunate with diverse businesses. To make sure we take advantage of our opportunities, I initiated and prioritized a master planning process to guide our investments for the next 20-plus years. In a systematic, disciplined manner, we’re assessing our current business and identifying strategic opportunities. We have a tremendous opportunity to grow.

LM: What goals have been achieved so far, and what challenges are about to surface?

Christian: In addition to moving forward with a comprehensive master plan, which is already helping us identify growth opportunities, I have increased our visibility as a port. In meetings with carriers, shippers, current and potential customers, national, state, and local stakeholders, I’ve been demonstrating our commitment to forging strong partnerships for mutual economic benefit.

Internally, I implemented a reorganization of the port last fall for greater efficiency, functional alignment and to provide more opportunities for employees to grow within the organization.

In terms of challenges, we need to allocate our finances so we can capitalize on opportunities and make sure that our current assets are maintained appropriately. Going forward, a planned and disciplined approach is the only way to ensure long-standing issues don’t come as a surprise.

LM: Business with Cuba was one issue addressed at the recent “Cargo Connections” event. Can you speculate on that trade opportunity and others in the hemisphere?

Christian: Cuba was once New Orleans’ number one trading partner. The country still represents tremendous opportunity for the Port of New Orleans if the embargo is lifted—both for cargo and cruise. Currently, we ship frozen poultry to Cuba on a humanitarian basis.

We signed an memorandum of understanding with the National Port Administration of Cuba last October and have followed up by hosting delegations here in New Orleans and by visiting the Cuban Ambassador to the U.S. in Washington, D.C.

Overall, we’re well positioned both in the hemisphere and around the world as a gateway port. The Panama Canal expansion has been good for us so far, and we now have a direct Asian service with PEX3 and we’re seeing more Asian cargo as a result. Both shippers and carriers are looking at the Gulf due to the region’s robust export market and efficient access to the Midwest via rail.


About the Author

Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

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