Stephen Lamb, Head of Legal at Norvic Shipping, not only brings extensive experience in maritime law to the company, but also great energy and enthusiasm for supporting colleagues with the challenges they face in chartering and operating Norvic’s fleet.
You have over 25 years’ experience in maritime law. How did you first get involved?
I worked for a United States Congressman when the Exxon Valdez grounding and oil spill occurred. The Congressman represented part of my hometown, Seattle, Washington, where a large percentage of the Alaskan fishing fleet was based. That event led to the passage of new laws, which impacted all ships calling in the USA, and galvanised my interest. I knew then that I wanted to be a maritime lawyer. It was a way of combining my two passions – the law and ships at sea. I’ve always sailed recreationally and when I was getting my master’s degree in maritime law in Southampton, my Easter vacation was spent sailing on a container ship across the Atlantic. I never pass up an opportunity to go aboard a ship whether for a quick visit or a passage between ports.
What attracted you to Norvic shipping?
The vision and enthusiasm of our Chairman, AJ. Our dialogue before I joined convinced me that he and I were very much aligned in our vision for ‘smart chartering’ being information-based with a focus on continuous quality improvement.
How do you approach your role?
I don’t want the legal department to be a place where people take a deep breath and get a nervous feeling in their stomach before they knock on my door. I told AJ when I was hired in 2018 that I was going to socialise with members of the chartering and operations team so they felt comfortable coming to me. The quicker they come to the legal department for advice, the better off we are.
A month doesn’t go by without someone saying something along the lines of: “You’re the most approachable general counsel I’ve ever worked with.” I take that as a compliment.
Some of my time is spent dealing with long-term cases such as a vessel breaking down or a casualty. Then there’s the day-to-day firefighting, which is providing support when somebody asks, “Is this charterparty clause ok?” I also keep the team up to date on regulatory changes and handle all insurance matters.
What stands out at Norvic Shipping compared to other bulk operators?
In dry bulk, some just play the market and bet one way or the other. Another school of thought is to accept market volatility, which is how I feel. The way to succeed as a bulk operator is to run a tight, efficient organisation that learns from its mistakes, and the mistakes of others.
AJ understands that you have to be nimble and ready to respond to small movements in the market. I put the legal systems in place to make sure that we’re well-prepared for whatever direction the market might move.