What do SLASPA’s operations mean to most people? They see aircraft landing and departing, carrying visitors from around the world; huge and glamorous cruise ships full of passengers keen to experience Saint Lucia; yachts and superyachts coming and going from scenic marinas; container vessels loaded with food, drink, clothes, toys and household goods. Yes, SLASPA is all of that – and more. It’s only natural that the ‘star’ performers are the most visible. But what goes on behind the scenes?

Every successful performance depends on a great backstage team! From IT to HR, from Port Police to environmental work, SLASPA’s backstage teams provide the consistent, strong foundations and day-to-day support that are so vital. SLASPA also works hard to connect with all its stakeholders – and that includes taking time to explain plans, consulting and listening before making big decisions. “We need to listen; when we speak to our customers, we can hear a different side to things and that gives us an opportunity to act,” says SLASPA Chief Operating Officer Grace Parkinson.

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SLASPA Port Police

SLASPA Port Police are responsible for enforcing law and order at Saint Lucia’s ports, airports and marina facilities. It’s a huge responsibility, taking in all aspects of safety and security and covering everything from preventing smuggling to assisting with traffic management.

The 150 Port Police Officers have the same powers of arrest as the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force and are supported in their work by ten civilian workers.

Chief of Port Police Kennedy Francis says:

“Our job is to enforce all of the relevant regulations and legislation. An airport or sea port is like a small city or community in itself. Anything to do with the maintenance of law and order is our responsibility – and that includes on the water. Within the harbour and land jurisdiction of the ports, for example, we are responsible for enforcing maritime law and any aspect of maritime safety.”

Those responsibilities are constantly evolving – the Port Police must implement any new regulations coming from the International Maritime Organization or the International Civil Aviation Organization.

“We have regular training workshops and seminars – and we have to keep in touch with the strategic focus and trends in aviation and maritime security,” says Kennedy Francis.

SLASPA is a port authority as well as operator; as such it has the same level of responsibility for the marinas and sea ports that it does not actually operate. For example, the Police run a mobile patrol boat covering Marigot Bay and Rodney Bay (both official ports of entry), ready to respond to any incidents in those areas. The Port Police also work closely with Customs and Immigration Authorities, providing collaborative support and ensuring these agencies have the office and operational space they need to tackle smuggling, illegal immigration and other such activities. Ports worldwide have concerns over petty pilferage, and Saint Lucia is no different.

The Port Police use a comprehensive network of CCTV cameras as part of their efforts here. “We do a lot of risk management and work with other agencies,” says Kennedy SLASPA’s highly professional staff Francis.

Cruise calls

The Port Police have a particularly visible presence on the quayside when cruise ships call into Saint Lucia. With the large amount of activity going on in the port, safety and security are vital, says Kennedy Francis.

SLASPA is fully compliant with the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code and has set procedures and security plans in place for the arrival of a cruise ship. Port Police meet with the vessel’s Chief Security Officer to confirm the security plan while the vessel is alongside.

“Security is very tight – everyone from the vessel, passenger or crew, has a ship’s pass and we screen everybody coming into the area,” says Kennedy Francis.

Recruitment and Training

One of the big advantages of having a Port Police Force is having a dedicated workforce trained to the right level and with the precise skill sets required for the environments they work in.

SLASPA aims to recruit its new police officers as youngsters from college, university or school; rigorous background checks are carried out, and psychometric testing and interviews are used to recruit people with the right skills and mindset.

The recruits are trained at Saint Lucia’s Police Training Academy, where they are expected to undertake physical training and learn about law enforcement, firearms, Aviation and Maritime Security and Customer Service.

Human Resources Department

SLASPA employs more than 450 people across a huge variety of areas and disciplines. This is a fast-paced, dynamic and highly technical organisation – and there is a rigorous approach to finding the right people for the right positions.

“We are looking for employees who are the best fit for the organisation,” says Joanna Biscette, Senior Manager – Human Resources. “For most of our positions, especially specialised areas, there will be specific educational requirements. However, the organisation has moved away from traditional recruitment to hiring for attitude and aptitude. The candidate’s personality must be one that blends easily with a teamworking environment. We really focus on finding people who can work independently and transition into the organisation quickly, who understand our ethos and are committed to customer excellence.”

Human Resources encompasses not only employee relations, training, learning and development, which are all vital components in maintaining a positive, proactive organisational environment. Additionally, the HR team works with all department heads to organise training specific to the needs of each department.

Training can be individual and group training, and it can be sourced at local, national, regional or international levels. There is a focus on ensuring that all SLASPA employees meet the training and skills requirements of the strict international standards relating to both air and sea ports. Another focus area for the HR team is working towards encouraging more women into the maritime sector. Therefore, more emphasis is placed on training opportunities for women within this area.

Equally, SLASPA is working to encourage the younger generation to explore the career choices within the Authority. That includes organising a ‘schools fair’ at which pupils could learn more about what happens in the various departments at SLASPA and where they might fit in. For those looking for a new direction, the careers opportunities within SLASPA are limitless – enthusiastic people can enter the organisation at many levels, and there are always opportunities to grow. Succession planning is an important aspect for SLASPA, as stated by Amy Henry-Demille, Manager Employee Relations:

“It takes seven years for an individual to gain all the knowledge and certification required to be a qualified ship’s pilot.” “There are so many departments and so much knowledge to be gained from being employed at SLASPA,” says Joanna Biscette. “It is technical, skilled and specialised. Every day it is hands-on, practising, gaining experience. Being employed by SLASPA is an opportunity leading to more opportunities.”

Health and Wellbeing

SLASPA’s HR work extends way beyond recruitment and training, and there is a real commitment to the health and wellbeing of its workforce.

“We take a holistic view,” says Joanna Biscette. “These are not just people in the organisation doing work – we are looking at the whole person and ensuring that we meet as many of their needs as possible.”

• SLASPA employees benefit from medical insurance and pension plans.

• A wellness programme provides guidance and education on lifestylerelated diseases, mental health and physical wellness. There are workshops and lectures on a wide range of healthrelated topics.

• Peace of mind is another priority. SLASPA runs an after-school programme for employees’ children. This is run by a retired teacher, who organises activities and is on hand to assist children with their homework – importantly, it also means staff can focus on their work rather than worrying about where their children might be.

• An employee fitness programme runs from Monday to Thursday, with activities including aerobics, soca-cise and yoga.

• Medical and eye checks are carried out regularly on all those who operate machinery such as reachstackers and cranes on the sea port, or working in the airport.

SLASPA works with four trade unions representing its workforce and the focus is on maintaining strong and positive working relationships. Negotiations on pay and work conditions are conducted every three years. SLASPA liaises with the trade union representatives if there is any issue to be resolved.

SLASPA has appointed a dedicated health and safety manager, whose responsibility is to look at specific areas under SLASPA’s jurisdiction and consider where improvements could be made for health and safety reasons – for example, adding more signage to incident-prone areas and drafting policies. There is also a committee of independent people who monitor and examine working areas and practices, coordinating with the Engineering Department, to recommend improvements where needed.

All of this work is leading to a detailed policy which will document procedures to be followed and ensure standardisation across the organisation.

SLASPA’s has a team of seven IT experts covering all of its operations. “All nine locations are connected so that we can provide support from our base,” says Gerry George, Senior Manager, Information Systems.

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Maritime IT

SLASPA operates a Unitrack Terminal Operating System (TOS) which integrates information about vessels, cargo and cargo handling and enables tracking of vessels, commercial cargo and personal effects carried in containers. The focus is on accessibility, transparency and ease of doing business; shipping lines and agents can make berth reservations via a special web interface App, and the TOS verifies times and allocates berthing based on availability, schedules and ships enroute.

The system allows up to minimum two hours modification limits in berth bookings, proving valuable flexibility for port users. The Unitrack TOS is also integrated with Customs, to enable a smooth flow through the terminal. When a truck driver arrives at the terminal and submits the relevant documentation at the gate, the system confirms whether the container being collected has been cleared by Customs and informs Operations for the preparation of the container for delivery. When the driver departs, the system verifies that the right container has been collected, before the truck exits the gate.

SLASPA is now developing plans for an online vehicle booking system (VBS) for trucks. This would make the process even swifter, as containers could be located and automatically placed ready for collection in advance. Meanwhile, a new upgraded cargo locating system is being trialled in the container yard.

Airport IT

SLASPA’s high-tech airport IT system tracks aircraft arrivals and departures and passenger numbers for embarkation and disembarkation, as part of a smoothflowing system. SLASPA is now planning to introduce free WiFi access throughout its two airports, based on international standards.

Lighthouses

SLASPA is responsible for the Moule a-Chique lighthouse, which is the second highest in the world, and for the Vigie lighthouse. Both are manned 24-hours, and are equipped for global tracking of traffic via vessels’ AIS systems.

Statistical Management Information System

Information on vessels and cargo can be incredibly valuable to businesses, organisations and the general public. SLASPA has a sophisticated system for collecting information and making that data available. A restaurant servicing the airport certainly benefits from having an idea of forecast passenger numbers. If a particular week is going to be higher or lower than usual, they can adjust their stock levels and orders.

Information is available regarding cruise ship arrivals, and statistics regarding visitor arrivals can assist taxi drivers, tour operators, shops owners, photographers and other stakeholders with planning or adjusting existing plans. Port Police work schedules can be adjusted in advance depending on demand.

“The data we provide also helps people who are not directly connected to the port with making decisions and plans,” says Gerry George. “This goes beyond our direct partners.”

At present, SLASPA publishes the information in a processed format; there are plans to revise and extend that and also to provide raw data only, so that interested parties can do their own analysis as necessary.

“Providing raw data will free up our time in not having to process data – but also it will provide more options to the users. We are looking at upgrading our statistics program to facilitate increased access to raw data, and also considering ways to answer online queries and provide more information on the port. This approach could help, for example, hotels to target their advertising and marketing.”

Research and Planning

SLASPA has taken steps to introduce regular customer and employee surveys, whose feedback will be used across all aspects of planning and developing facilities and services. New customer feedback surveys at the air and sea ports will assist every department in deciding where services could be strengthened or changed, says Lennon Prospere, SLASPA’s Research and Planning Officer.

“This feedback will help us to identity areas for improvement and develop new ideas – more importantly it will also help us map out our performance historically, so we can see exactly where we have come from and where we have progressed.”

Meanwhile, twice-yearly employee perception surveys are planned.

“To be operationally efficient, employees must be satisfied,” he says. “Surveys provide an opportunity for employees to express their views and provide the Authority with an avenue to ensure that they are happy and motivated employees, which will equate to improved efficiencies and output. In an effort to identify any additional needs and areas for improvement, SLASPA will set up a number of focus groups which will include some of its main external stakeholders – including, for example, shippers, truckers and stevedores”.

Employee surveys are important in providing feedback that supports all aspects of SLASPA’s planning and development.

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