Employee Spotlight: Phil Swart, Logistics Manager at SOTS Durban

Employee Spotlight: Phil Swart, Logistics Manager at SOTS Durban

What is your job title and location?

Logistics Manager at Durban – Seaboard Overseas Trading & Shipping (Pty) Ltd.

How long have you been employed with SOTG?

April, 2006.

What is your history/career path prior to SOTG?

I entered the job market the day after writing my final matric exam as a casual quay side tally for Portnet in Cape Town, better known today as Transnet Port Terminals. Shipping was a whole new world to me and I was very fortunate to have had some of the best mentors and managers to guide and teach me to the point where I was given the opportunity to join a dynamic company in the world of Ships Agency. This was the second piece of the puzzle and an exciting new learning curve! In a nutshell, a ship agent is responsible for all the port formalities, taking care of all owners’ and charterer’s requirements. Ship owners and charterers seldom have offices in each and every port in the world and, as such, they rely heavily on the skill, knowledge and experience of the local Port Agent to assist and resolve any issues or problems that may arise prior, during or after a vessel’s port visit. Each situation and each vessel call in and off port limits, was a new challenge with a guaranteed learning curve. Seaboard was a key client for the Ships Agency Company and also my first introduction into the world of Agricultural Trading. During my almost eight years in Cape Town, I worked my way from Trainee to Operations Manger. In 2003, I had the opportunity to join the Port Elizabeth team for two years and eventually settled in Durban in February, 2005. In 2006 my path crossed again with Seaboard and I was given the opportunity to join the Seaboard team that I had worked with for so many years whilst in Ships Agency.

What are your current responsibilities?

I am the Logistics Manager in Durban. My team and I are responsible for Customs formalities, commodity movements and stock monitoring on imports, exports and any locally sourced agricultural products in South Africa and neighboring countries. The Durban Logistics Department is made up of various teams, each focused on specialized service delivery that pertain to the intricacies that make for a successful day in Logistics.

  • Clearing & Forwarding (Imports & Exports)
  • Import Grain Logistics
  • Import Protein Logistics
  • Local Grain Logistics
  • Local Protein Logistics

For the Import Logistics Teams, the day would start with their focus on the progress on vessels that in port or on their way, then ticking the progress boxes to ensure that cargo delivery instructions for the previous day were successfully executed, this action will automatically trigger the next round of delivery plans and arrangements. A crucial daily action is to verify stock movements for the previous day and to ensure that our balance with that of our storage facilities. Regular and clear communication with our clients and services providers are of utmost importance. A large portion of our day is devoted to telephonic and email communications with clients, transporters and other service providers, ultimately contributing to the successful execution of the sales contract.

For the local Logistics Teams, keeping track of stock at each facility is the first stop every day, reconciling the previous day’s loading and offloading activities, followed by meticulous planning for the next day. The teams are kept busy from very early in the day, as a large portion of our sales are don on a delivered basis and some days would start much earlier than others. Current, up to date information is extremely valuable to keep track of distributions and ensuring timeous delivery, as some clients operate on just in time deliveries. Our Local Team deliver grains all over South African and across borders to mills in our neighboring countries.

The Clearing & Forwarding team is responsible for compliance in terms of the various Government Agencies and Departments to ensure that cargoes imported and exported can be used for is intended purpose. A normal day would consist of catching up with overnight correspondence, compiling and submitting clearing entries for either import or export cargoes. This is followed by a trip into town to the Customs office, Port Health, Department of Agriculture and the Perishable Product Export Control Board and then back to the office to distribute the relevant information and documentation to ensure the smooth flow of cargoes into our ports and over our borders to our clients.

What do you enjoy most about working for SOTG?

Back in 2006 I didn’t join a company –  I joined a group of people who happened to work for a great company and I still feel the same way today. I have been fortunate and have gained valuable experience in a multitude of activities and functions carried out by our Durban office, which helped me grow as a person as well as in business. Logistics in South Africa is complicated, and any situation can change from simple to extremely complex and vice versa in an instant! Personally, it is satisfying, knowing that my team and I contribute daily to achieve company targets and goals.

What’s your favorite memory about working for SOTG?

I have many fond memories, but if I had to single out one memorable occasion, it would have to be when I had the opportunity to experience the life of a Truck Driver for a couple of days. Our Durban office move a substantial amount of cargo every year and approximately 75% of goods are transported by road. In September 2016, I was invited to join one of our major transport business partners in celebrating their 25-year anniversary. Part of the celebrations was a two-day road trip from one of the inland silos down to the Western Cape, delivering grains. The experience was astounding and definitely gave me an improved understanding from a transporters perspective.


What important values do you think SOTG delivers on?

I think these two words say it all: INTEGRITY & RELIABILITY

What surprised you most about the job or its location?

Doesn’t matter how much experience you have or how much have done – every day will bring a new challenge!

How do you spend your free time? What do you like to do in the city where you live?

Logistic operations operate on a 24/7, 365 basis and any free time is precious. MY free time is devoted to family and friends. Being South African we love our sports, but we like to braai even more…

What is your hidden talent? Or something most people don’t know about you?

I have a wicked sense of humor, but people don’t really understand it and think I’m just being sarcastic!