Follow us: Entypo-facebook Entypo-twitter


Profile - David Jean-Marie

Nimble mind at the helm of BPI

The reputation of Barbados and the port, Bridgetown, has been greatly enhanced in recent years by the decision in 2004 to create a limited liability company, Barbados Port Inc, in place of the old Barbados Port Authority. One man who has been closely involved in this transition is David Jean-Marie, now chief executive of BPI, who talked to Caribbean Maritime about his job and his aspirations for the country’s maritime sector.

david jean marieDavid Jean-Marie clearly enjoys a challenge. When he joined the staff of Barbados Port Authority in 1987 it was a public-sector organization with an old-style attitude to commerce and revenue.

Although the port authority was starting to see the benefits of computerization in the mid 1980s, the physical infrastructure and cargo handling equipment of Bridgetown Port were becoming out of date and inefficient.

Mr Jean-Marie has always had a clear vision of the way ahead. His background is in computer engineering, while his higher education achievements also include degrees in finance and accounting. He has also seen something of the world outside the West Indies – having studied both in the UK and in the USA – and over the years he has acquired a valuable network of friends and contacts in the maritime sector.

Having served the former Barbados Port Authority in various key roles – interspersed by a time as general manager of the Barbados Transport Board – he had a clear idea of his key objectives when he took over as chief executive of BPI in September 2012. They were:

  • To streamline the company’s operations
  • To contain cost
  • To enhance revenue
  • To build staff morale.

Speaking to Caribbean Maritime, Mr Jean-Marie said he thought his greatest achievement at BPI had been “playing a key role in transitioning the Barbados Port Authority, a statutory corporation, into Barbados Port Inc, a limited liability company established to be a commercially focused business entity, characterized by nimble decision-making”.
He described some of the vital steps by which BPI was able to bring about this transition.

Financial expertise

One of them was to acquire a “comprehensive suite” of modern cargo handling equipment for Bridgetown Port.

Another was to have all port staff – including pilots, stevedores and equipment technicians – certified to international standards using the services of the Caribbean Maritime Institute.
Mr Jean-Marie brought his financial expertise to bear on the revenue-earning aspects of BPI. “We were able to restructure the financial position of the company by debt consolidation, strategic tariff modifications and rationalized labor practices,” he told Caribbean Maritime.

A temporary setback for Barbados has been the long recession that the country has endured along with many of its neighbors across the region. But Mr Jean-Marie finds reasons for optimism in the forecast traffic figures for 2014. Pointing out that, as a destination port, BPI handles cargo primarily for the domestic market, with little transshipment cargo, he said:

“The total tonnage handled last year [2013/14] slightly exceeded 1 million tonnes and this is expected to increase by approximately four per cent as the country strives to climb out of a long recession.”

He also sounded an upbeat note in regard to the cruise sector. “We expect to receive an increase in cruise passengers, particularly home-porting arrivals. We therefore project a three per cent increase of total passengers this year [2014/15] and a further five per cent to reach approximately 750,000 passengers for the 2015/16 period.”

A vital asset for the cruise sector that has been much talked about is the proposed new cruise terminal at Sugar Point, Bridgetown – projected to cost around US$ 250 million – and here again Mr Jean-Marie spoke in a positive way. He said the Sugar Point cruise facility had been fully designed and all the regulatory and planning permissions were in place. A financing model involving an equity/debt arrangement was being proposed to the various industry stakeholders.

“We remain optimistic that the construction phase could begin during the second quarter of 2015,” said Mr Jean-Marie.


Family man

Life outside the world of work is never dull for David Jean-Marie, who has a wide range of interests. He reads a lot and likes to keep himself up-to-date on current affairs and business. He also has a keen interest in sport – not only the classic West Indies game of cricket, but also European and English Premier League soccer.
Above all, he is a people person, for whom family and friends mean a great deal. “As a family person, I enjoy participating in my teenage daughters’ development. I also maintain and cherish relationships with colleagues in the shipping industry across the region through the CSA, [Caribbean Shipping Association], CMI [Caribbean Maritime Institute] and PMAC [Port Management Association of the Caribbean].”


Career at a glance

Born: 12 December 1963 in Barbados.

Higher education: Attended University of Manchester, UK, as a Barbados Scholar, graduating with a B.Sc. (Hon) in Computer Engineering.

Attended University of New Haven, Connecticut, as a Fulbright Scholar, graduating with an MBA concentrating in Finance.

Obtained Certified Management Accounting (CMA) designation at graduate school.

Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Barbados.

First job: Joined the newly established Management Information Systems (MIS) Department at Barbados Port Authority as a computer programmer.

Career at BPI: Returned to the newly corporatized BPI in 2004 as financial controller and corporate secretary.

Became acting CEO on the retirement of Everton Walters in 2011.

Appointed CEO in September 2012.

CSA: Elected Vice President of the Caribbean Shipping Association at its 42nd AGM in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in October 2012.


What’s in a name?

The reason for his French-sounding surname lies in the fact that David Jean-Marie’s parents are both St Lucian by birth. They migrated to Barbados as young adults.