Commercial Marine Business Development Manager
For Keith Drake, in his role as Commercial Marine Business Development Manager at the Devonport Dockyard in Auckland, no two days are the same. The Dockyard’s 180 metre long dry-dock, is used for docking Royal New Zealand Navy vessels for just 5 to 6 months of the year, and Keith is charged with filling the available dry-dock space with a variety of domestic and overseas ship survey, maintenance and refit projects. “Dry-docks are exciting places,” says Keith, who has well over 30 years’ experience in the commercial maritime sector. “I still get a buzz out of walking through the dry-dock with a ship on the blocks.”
Diversity is common in the docks. “The variety of customer and culture can vary; from a Japanese fishing vessel to a French Navy frigate, and from an American cruise ship, to an ice-breaker or a superyacht,” he says. Whilst the vessel types, languages and cultures Keith deals with may change, customer expectations remain the same. “Our customers all want reliable engineering completed in a timely manner, and to the agreed budget,” he says, “and that’s what we deliver.”
Keith credits the implementation of an enhanced Dockyard Management Contract, in 2014, for the ongoing success of commercial business at his Auckland base. “The current contract gives us more flexibility around use of the dry-dock and facilities, which is good for our ship repair business and the development of our team. We are now responsible for the NZ Navy’s engineering and maintenance planning, so there are increased career opportunities for Babcock’s young apprentices and engineers,” he says.
Starting as a young apprentice and working through the ranks is a career path familiar to Keith. Originally hailing from the United Kingdom, Keith trained as a shipwright in Plymouth, before emigrating to New Zealand with his young family in 1986. “My emigration was sponsored by NZ Defence and I joined Devonport Dockyard. I worked for a few months as a shipwright and then joined the Dockyard Design Office in 1987,” he says.
“Dry-docking and ship repair is in my blood, and Babcock is the largest and most capable marine engineering company in New Zealand.”
After moving from a design role into project management, Keith is now charged with developing the commercial marine, dry-docking and ship repair business for Babcock. Keith spends his days finding new dry-dock customers, from across New Zealand and internationally, investing in customer relationships and managing commercial bids. “A typical day involves liaising with customers and potential customers, working with the team to research and monitor Pacific shipping movements, project meetings and compiling repair contracts,” he says.
However, nothing beats seeing a new ship coming into the Devonport Dockyard. “I am always pleased to see a commercial ship enter the dock and seeing our team and the customers, working hand in hand, taking the typical emergent dry-dock repair challenges in their stride,” he says. “Dry-docking and ship repair is in my blood, and Babcock is the largest and most capable marine engineering company in New Zealand.”