Princess (Dr.) Vicky Adesuyi Haastrup is a prominent figure in Nigeria’s maritime industry. She became the revelation of Nigeria’s port concession programme. She simply came, saw and conquered. Even without previous training or experience in maritime coming from the oil and gas sector, Princess Haastrup quickly and amazingly stole the limelight and has since remained the toast of the port industry till date.
With the courage and boldness of a lioness, Princess Haastrup confronted the challenge of running one of the most strategic terminals at the Lagos Port Complex Apapa in a male-dominated milieu. Prior to the port concession, dockworkers were always restive and dangerous to handle. Violent clashes in the Lagos ports involving dock workers were rife, sometimes leading to loss of lives. Such violent confrontations were often infiltrated by hoodlums and cultists from outside, thereby making the ports more or less a dreaded terrain.
Such was the state and reputation of the port environment before the concessionaires came on the scene. But such a terrifying scenario did not frighten Princess Haastrup who had to run one of the terminals that used to be the hotbeds of the violent clashes. Never intimidated by men or crisis situations, Princess threw herself into the challenging vortex of Nigeria’s port system.
A blend of beauty and brain, Princess Haastrup was able to navigate the initial challenges and soon rose to be the admiration of port users, port watchers and even the over 5,000 dockworkers that she inherited from Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA). Refusing to be cowed by anyone, she shrugged off all the threats of the dockworkers, and later became known as the “mummy of dockworkers”. She was able to do this because, despite her boldness and raw courage, she is a woman and a mother to the core, radiating love and compassion, but sometimes the firmness that ensures that whatever task at hand gets done.
These qualities and her other leadership attributes did not go unnoticed by fellow concessionaires who did not waste any time in appointing her the Chairman of their new association known as the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN). This is because she has proved herself to be a great example of brave and innovative female leadership.
A firm believer in “what a man can do, a woman can do better”, Princess Haastrup has made Terminals C and D of Apapa Port one of the most efficient port terminals in the country, discharging bulk-laden ships with ease and remarkable efficiency. She acquired experience and dexterity in port operations by a dint of hard work, research and humble deference to expertise. Because of her humble and loving disposition, she received advice and any assistance she needed which she combined with her brilliance and vibrant nature, and within a short time, she started operating like someone with decades of experience.
Dr.(Mrs.) Vicky Haastrup is a good example of the virtuous woman described in the Bible (Proverbs 31: 10-31) who is priceless, whose husband’s heart trusts and rejoices in her, and so her entire household. She is like a merchant’s ship that brings her food from afar –and a host of other qualities as enumerated in the holy book. She believes that a woman has no limitation in what she can do especially when she is encouraged and propelled by her husband. This conviction and her humble background, she says, constitute the secret of her success in her life and career.
Though not a interested in running for political office, Princess Haastrup believes the time is ripe for Nigeria to have a female President. To her, it is not about physical strength, but brain. Men have been at the helm of affairs all this while and they have failed, as the society has not been better off for it. It is time to give women a chance. Women have all the qualities a man has for governance and more, and this will make women achieve more in position of authority than men, she says.
This belief of Haastrup finds credence in what is happening today in the global battle against the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic. The few countries that are being led by women have recorded fewer deaths, and are doing much better in dealing with the pandemic than countries ruled by men. Such countries like Germany, New Zealand, Finland and Iceland have the best COVID-19 responses than others. Why? Because women have a different mindset; they are more creative, have a different imagination and always think out of the box. Their motherly disposition makes them think about human life and welfare of the people more than men who are always more occupied with how to win the next election. These are the attributes that Princess Haastrup epitomizes. That is why in crisis situations or situations that demand tough decision-making, she always emerges victorious like those world women leaders.
Princess Haastrup actually brought a wind of change to port operations in Nigeria. Her sterling performance as a cargo-handling operator has won her and her terminal, ENL Consortium Limited, a lot of accolades. For three consecutive times, she won the Shipping Personality of the Year award starting from 2011. She is the current President of the Certified Institute of Shipping of Nigeria, (CISN), a mentor of Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) Nigeria and a Trustee of the Women in Logistics and Transport (WiLAT). She is also a matron of the women wing of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA).
Without mincing words, Dr. Vicky Haastrup has really left giant footprints on the sands of the nation’s maritime industry and the economy in general. In 2015, she led ENL Consortium to make Nigeria proud on the global scene as the company emerged as the Best Terminal Operator for Middle East, Africa and the Indian Subcontinent at the 2015 Seatrade Awards held in Dubai, UAE. It was the first time any Nigerian company would win the coveted award.
Because of the indelible mark she has made in the maritime industry, she has been honoured with several personal and corporate awards by various groups and professional bodies operating in the industry. And these are too numerous to mention. She has also won numerous national and international accolades.
As we join her family members, friends, associates and numerous followers to celebrate her birthday on August 16, we pray that God will grant Princess (Dr.) Vicky Haastrup many more years of service to the nation and to humanity.
My wife is full of wisdom, and is very intelligent – Prince Haastrup
In this rare interview he granted to Oluwatoyin Amao, top businessman, Chairman of ENL Consortium and the first elected Deputy Governor of Osun State, Prince Clement Adesuyi Haastrup, speaks glowingly of his wife, Princess (Dr.) Vicky Haastrup.
How would you describe your wife?
She is full of wisdom, has the fear of God and very intelligent.
You talked about fear of God. How do you mean?
Her fundamental principle in life is that she acknowledges God as her saviour. The pivot that guides her life is: One didn’t bring anything into this world and you won’t go with anything when you are called home by your maker. She doesn’t pray to have the best of the world and lose heaven. These have helped her a lot in her relationship with me as the husband and with other people. This embodies her to be a God-fearing woman. For example, in our lives as married couple, I can say we have the best of relationship though that does not mean we do not have our differences.
We have divergent principles to life. I like taking risks. I use to have a Managing Director who is much older that says one thing he has observed about me is that when anything drops in my hands, I don’t look back, I just move on but for him, if anything drops in his hands, he will want to look back and analyse it but for me, I don’t have room for lamentation because there is limit to our days on earth. You don’t see me with small projects, I go for big projects and sometimes it amazes my wife.
Also, I am an Ijesha and a very proud man. As quiet as I am on the outside, if you are close to me, I am a bit difficult to manage but because of her God-given wisdom and philosophy about life, she is able to cope with me. She is a kind woman that wants to enjoy life but not at the expense of her salvation. So, as a result of this, she does not hold anything too tight and she endeavours to maintain good relationship and keep the family going. Thank God, I am not insensitive to who she is.
She is selfless. In anything she says or in any decision she makes, her intentions are good. She is never after her own personal gain. For example, she thinks I am 72 that I should slow down and take things easy by not running around doing so much activities and I always tell her that at my age, I don’t want to be a man who sits at the balcony reading newspaper all day or watching television. I am handling many projects presently. None of the people that I put in charge of the projects know about these projects more than I do. How do you expect such a man because he is 72 years in age and God has blessed me with good health to be sitting idle at home doing nothing? I cannot. But I know she is selfless, not self-centered and I know she has good intentions towards me. She too knows I am a selfless person, very generous and I care for her and our children. She knows that whatever excesses I have are just things that are fundamental but also with good intention.
Were you comfortable with her running the terminals at the port at the beginning?
You know I told you she is very intelligent. She is full of wisdom and selfless. I had an uncle. When I was Deputy Governor, his two wives approached me that I should plead with their husband to empower them so that they can be running their business and make money. I went to him and I discussed the need for him to empower his wives because he cannot satisfy all their needs and that if the wives are comfortable and he is also, the wealth are all for the children. He said if you empower a woman, they will override you. But for me, I have a different opinion. I don’t like an idle lady as a wife, I want my wife to be enterprising – to be a man – because I have no hidden agenda and I don’t have to keep her away from my resources or my business and I also believe that if you have a wife that is loyal, dedicated and diligent and you work together, you are both building common wealth for the family. As a result, I felt the best thing especially when you are diversified like we are in ENL, somebody has to take control. By the time I took that decision, friends and families were saying I am stupid that how can I ask my wife to take charge but the reality is, we struggled and prayed together, we both put our resources into the business and now that we are successful, should I say because she is a woman and I should not empower her? No.
Also, I believe that men that do that are men that have inferiority complex and that is the reason you will not want your wife to shine and to be the best.
I have confidence in myself and in my wife and I am not regretting it because another thing is that I can’t do a sedentary job and I can’t do something monotonous, I believe in diversified challenges. We are into properties, hospitality, road, construction and power and all these things task one differently but I enjoy it. So, it suits me for her to be there and be going round as I am doing and that is really what expanded our scope of business because I feel comfortable she is doing well at the port and infact, I can tell you that sometimes in a year, I won’t be at the port. It is only the report she gives to me about the activities going on and if there are issues, we tackle it together and we move on.
Would you say you are satisfied with the way she has managed the terminals?
Fantastic, I couldn’t have had it better and I must say she is making me proud. She is flying the flag of the Haastrup family high and I am proud of that and I thank God that she is taking good decisions.
How about her role as the Chairman, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN)?
They say charity begins at home. She is managing the home front and the company well especially the concession. I am not surprised she is managing that position well to the appreciation of her colleagues who continue to sustain her in that position and I am sure that if you ask them, they have no regret having her as their chairperson and that also makes me very proud of her. That is why I said she flying the flag of the Haastrup family high.
On this occasion of her birthday, I wish her longevity, good health, strength and more wisdom to cope with the challenges of life. And I pray we both live to see our children becoming successful and getting married in good health and when they start having children we will both be alive to support them. I pray that we will live to pass the baton to them at old age.
Mark Walsh: She is very tough but fair
Mr. Mark Walsh is the Managing Director, ENL Consortium, concessionaires of Terminal C and D at the Lagos Port Complex, Apapa. Walsh reports directly to the Executive Vice Chairman/CEO of the company, Princess Vicky Haastrup. In this interview with Shulammite ‘Foyeku, he shares his experience working with Princess Haastrup at the port for more than 14 years.
What is your experience working with Princess Haastrup?
I have been working with ENL and Princess Haastrup since 2006 when the port concession started. Since I have been working with her all these years, we have had a very good working relationship. We have been learning to get to know each other better all these years because it is an ongoing process. She is very nice to work with. She is like any other boss; at times we lock heads on different issues based on the way I look at things and the way she looks at things but we usually work out any differences and move on. I enjoy the job, the relationship that we both have and over the years I think we have grown very closer to how we look at things and how we see each other. I think we’ve known each other pretty well at this point in the last 14 years. It’s a long time to know somebody and work closely with them. I have enjoyed 14 years of my life working here in Nigeria with ENL and being part of the family that we have here.
Having worked with her this long, how would you describe her?
She is very tough but fair. She is a very strong leader. When you need someone to rely on to get something done, she is the person that all the terminals come to, to make sure things get done. She is dependable because she has her unique ways of doing things.
What would you say is the secret of her success as a port operator?
One of her secrets is that she is a fast learner. She has been able to learn and adapt to the situation because when she came in, people thought that because she is a woman and one of the few in the maritime industry as the time, she really did not know the business that well. But she surprised everybody and showed them that her knowledge of the business had grown immensely over the period of time. That led her to become the Chairman of Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN).
As the Chairman of STOAN and being a woman, do you think she sometimes feels intimidated while in the midst of other port operators who are mostly men?
At the beginning, when she first came into the industry, when we are getting started in 2006, she felt a little bit intimidated because of knowledge but because she is such a fast learner, she was able to pick up how port operations work including how the agencies such as Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Shippers Council work and how the customers interacted with the company and so she was able to pick it up really fast. So when she started to go to meetings with all the other Managing Directors who are mainly male, she was able to stand her ground and speak for herself. When it comes to certain ways of doing business, she knows how the business environment works well in Nigeria having worked at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). She knows how the business environment works well in Nigeria and so she was able to actually outshine a lot of the expatriates that were running the other terminals. They saw the advantage of being a part of the terminal operators association and that was why they made her Chairman of STOAN. For the other big terminals like APMT, ABTL to support her to become STOAN Chairman, that tells you that she gained their respect very fast and being a strong-willed person, she determined what a lot of the terminals were doing at the time when the concession started.
ENL Terminal has the highest number of dockworkers in Nigerian ports. How has Princess Haastrup been able to manage the workers over the years without industrial unrest?
Like everybody in the company as well as the dockworkers, they have learnt to know her over the period of time. When she first came in, she was very difficult and tough on the dockworkers. She was always at the port every day, she was even at the main gate as security keeping anybody from stealing any of the products that were inside the terminal and it took the dockworkers a while to get used to her in the way she works and what she expected from them. But as time went on, she was able to gain their respect and over the years with the increases in salaries, the dockworkers were convinced themselves and can testify that they are in a better situation than they were before ENL came. So that gave her the backing to get close to them but made sure that they do what they are supposed to do.
In the case of Princess Haastrup, do you share the view that what a man can do a woman can do better?
Yes. I can say that. When you look at what she has done in the last fourteen years, I don’t think any man could have done what she has been able to achieve. I think men look at things more like black and white, very straightforward but Princess Haastrup looks at things very compassionately. She looks at things with a different eye than a man would.
Princess Haastrup is a gender advocate who believes women must be given the opportunity to thrive. Does this reflect at ENL also?
Yes, I have known her as somebody who has worked hard in trying to help other women in the different companies of the sector and at ENL. She has worked very hard to see that women succeed in the shipping industry. She has always been an advocate for women to get into the maritime industry because the industry needs that touch that only a woman can provide. For us at ENL, we have women in strategic positions. As a woman, I can say that she has made a big difference at ENL and at the seaport terminals.
She has provided support in terms of funding to a lot of our staff children and also people in their area to go to school.
Let’s talk about your operations at ENL. So far how has business been especially with some government policies on food import?
So far, it has been very difficult over the years. When we started, we were doing up to about 4.5 million tonnes of cargo a year. Then government policies started changing when they banned cement, rice and fish, all of which are our main commodities. That really affected our operation. We dropped down about 50 percent of the amount of cargo we handle so we then have to change the different types of cargo that we were getting and concentrate more on general cargoes. So we had to adapt based on policy changes in Nigeria but it affected our overall total tonnage. Then, we were doing 4.5million tonnes but now we are doing below 2 million tonnes.