Citing his own experience, he advises us to show trust as we need support from people around us and not to procrastinate anything that we can do at present; one day we might not be able to do it! Also, he admits that taking more risks the last years, he has rediscovered a creative side, away from the narrow or conventional thinking of others.


SAFETY4SEA: How did it come about that you joined shipping industry and your field of expertise specifically?

James Wilkes: I ‘wandered’ into the shipping industry, rather than joining it as part of some grand plan. I have a degree in maritime studies, and my first job was in tanker operations for a British shipowner. A spell as a marine fuels trader for an Italian oil refining and trading group followed that. In 1997, I took a job investigating maritime fraud, piracy and commercial crime and the rest, as they say, is history.


S4S: What about your current job/ role most excites you and why?

J.W.: I can arrive into the office first thing in the morning anticipating a day doing one thing or another and, because of one phone call, be on a flight to somewhere in the world that afternoon to help a client in trouble. After 20+ years, I still get a buzz out of being ‘on call’.


S4S: When you think of the word successful who's the first person who comes to mind and why?

J.W.: Anyone who is genuinely happy doing what they are doing.


S4S: Who is/was the most influential person/mentor to you & why ?

J.W.: A gentleman called Eric Grubb. He was the Group Managing Director of the shipping company I worked for at University and immediately afterwards. Mr Grubb was a straight-talking man, with a whip-sharp mind and a great sense of humour. He did not tolerate fools, but he cared deeply for his employees.


S4S: What is the best and what was the worst piece of advice you've ever been given and why?

J.W.: I would say the best piece of advice is “treat people as you would wish to be treated”. It speaks to me of respect and kindness. If more people in shipping heeded that advice, the industry would be immeasurably better for it. The worst piece of advice: “Trust no one”. You get nowhere and can have no friends if you don’t trust anyone at all.


S4S: If you could give a piece of advice to your 18-year-old-self one thing, what would it be and why?

J.W.: Don’t put off doing anything that you want to do: one day you might not be able to do it.


S4S: In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your business life?

J.W.: I have rediscovered the creative side of my nature. I’ve made a conscious effort to take more risks and not to be trapped by the narrow or conventional thinking of others. It’s been liberating.


S4S: What would you like to change in the current maritime landscape and your area of expertise specifically and why?

J.W.: I would like to see an end to discussions dominated interminably by “cost” issues. It is not limited to the shipping industry, but being cost-focused almost to the exclusion of any other thinking is debilitating, demoralizing and boring.



About James Wilkes, Managing Director, Gray Page Limited

A highly experienced trouble-shooter, James has been helping companies manage issues arising from corporate malfeasance, criminal activity, political instability, terrorism and other complex problems, for over twenty years. He founded Gray Page in 2003 and has headed the company ever since.