Port Agent in Antwerp
With a linesman as father and a harbour pilot as grandfather, Roxanne Dorikens was born with a love for the harbour. “When the job opening of port agent came to my attention, I immediately went to find out what kind of role one would have."
Roxanne has been working at Vopak Agencies in the port of Antwerp for four months. "Every day is really different here," she says from the office in Antwerp. "I interact with many people, I work independently and I have to speak the English language well." The Agencies office is a hop away from the Port House and about ten minutes away from the Belgian Vopak terminals.
“When I started, I was linked to a buddy, my colleague Barry. The first day everything was new for me, but Barry explained everything step by step and after about four weeks I was allowed to do the work on my own and he was only there to see if it went well. That felt like a small victory."
“In the first three months, I always worked with Barry, which was a lot of fun. He also warned me: pay attention because soon you have to do this all by yourself. The work is much more diverse than I expected beforehand. I knew some things about visiting a ship, but I didn't know anything about the work in the office. I like outside shifts the most. We always try to leave a good impression. During our work, it is important to build good contacts and it helps if they get to know you a little. ”
“We have a night shift, a long shift from 7 AM to 6 PM and a short shift from 9 am to 3 pm. In the short shift, you work in the office. In the long and night shift, I work outside and I will be visiting ships. When I arrive at work, the first thing I do is make a schedule and together with my colleagues, we do the transfer. We see the colleague from the shift before about an hour a day. After the transfer, I check up on all the ships: what they are doing, where they are and I make sure that I print the ship's documents."
“When I’m onboard I speak with the captain or chief officer. I ask for the times and the required documents. I also ask for the draft of the ship and the quantity of the cargo. When a ship has a depth of more than twelve meters, you are bound by the tides. I also have a chat; I ask if everything went well and if I can do anything else for them. I often get product samples for checking. A lot of times they want things to be delivered. For example, now there is a ship that wants plants and most recently a captain asked for sports shoes for his crew. I got the sizes from everyone and I started to buy athletic shoes for them. Another time I arranged a taxi so that the crew could get off the ship.”
“The working language on board of a ship is English or Dutch. But to be honest, not everyone speaks the English language fluently. So sometimes it's a bit of a guess, but we'll always work it out. The crew often is Filipino or Indian. The captains are mostly Russian, Norwegian, Polish and quite often Dutch. On ships with a Dutch crew, contact is fairly informal, on Indian ships, it is usually more hierarchical, but I always receive a friendly welcome."
“The first time when I went to visit a ship on my own, Barry was waiting in the car. I had a checklist with me so that I wouldn't forget anything. I was not nervous because I had already done the work independently while he was there. Even now I can always call our operator at the office if help or consultation is needed. My colleagues in the office keep an overview of all the ships.”
“I’m almost finished with my education. You are a junior port agent for a year and a half and after that, you will become a port agent. For the time being, I would like to work outside for a few years, you have all the freedom to plan everything yourself and I like that. But maybe someday, in the future, I will make the switch to become an office operator.”