South African-born and educated Sean Day, chairman of the Vancouver-based Teekay Corporation, has made a substantial and extremely generous grant to the Lawhill Maritime Educational Trust. The grant has been invested to provide ongoing funding for the Sean Day Scholars at Lawhill Maritime Centre. When Sean initially set up the Sean Day Scholarship Fund, he reluctantly allowed his name to be used at Brian Ingpen’s insistence. “You are a role model for young South Africans interested in a career in the maritime industry, said Brian.
Sean Day has been a wonderful supporter of Lawhill Maritime Centre since his first visit in 2007 when students were taught in a pre-fabricated classroom and a converted storeroom. They lived in a hostel built out of containers. Later he curiously asked Lawhill for its “wish list”, to which Brian Ingpen responded with a list that ranged from new pictures for the walls to a few more expensive items. Sean Day went silent for a while before responding that he and Susie Karlshoej, chairlady of the TK Foundation and daughter of the late founder of Teekay, Torben Karlshoej, would be visiting the school and that an architect should be on standby. “What’s the architect for?” inquired Ingpen. “The new maritime centre,” responded Day.
In March 2010, the new Lawhill Maritime Centre was opened, thanks to the generosity of the TK Foundation, and an extension – incorporating an electronic navigation classroom, a new classroom and accommodation for 12 additional students – is currently under construction, again thanks to the generosity of the TK Foundation.
He has returned to Lawhill several times, including the opening of the Centre and as the Centre’s Guest of Honour at its annual Awards Evening in 2014. The presence and interest of such a person is encouraging to all at Lawhill.
MORE ABOUT SEAN DAY
Sean Day has been a major player in the phenomenal success of the Teekay Corporation despite the vicissitudes of the tanker trades. World affairs and shipping have been his interests since his days in the boarding facility at the South African College School, the country’s oldest school, where, early each morning, while his schoolmates were still abed, he would hasten to the common room to read George Young’s daily shipping column in Cape Town’s Cape Times, and to scan the rest of the newspaper to keep himself abreast of global and national events.
As collecting ships’ postcards was a popular hobby at the time, youngsters – like Sean Day – would trawl the shipping offices in Cape Town’s Lower Burg Street, Exchange Place and St George’s Street, begging for additions to their collections. And, after a pleasant afternoon riding on harbour tugs, many a Saturday night was spent writing letters to other shipping lines, requesting more postcards.
On completing his schooling, he enrolled at the South African Merchant Navy Academy General Botha for pre-sea training, where he became senior cadet captain, and joined Safmarine, then South Africa’s largest shipping line, and later he became an officer in the South African Navy, serving in the destroyer SAS Jan van Riebeeck. Among the incidents Day experienced while aboard the destroyer was the warship standing by the containership Neptune Sapphire that had lost her bow in heavy seas off the Wild Coast while on the Cape route during the Suez closure of that time.
His keen academic mind led him to study, first at the University of Cape Town and then, on a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, he read Jurisprudence at Oxford University in England. But his lifelong interest in shipping took him to Hong Kong and the famous Indo China Steam Navigation Company, part of the multi-faceted trading company Jardine, Matheson.
His three years in Asia were followed by a spell with Fednav in Montreal, which he joined in the late 1970’s. Marriage to Ginny brought him to New York in 1981, where he undertook freelance work for banks with distressed shipping portfolios. In 1982, after Fednav had bought into Navios, a raw material shipping arm of the United States Steel Corporation, he was asked by Fednav’s Chairman, Ladi Pathy, to join a team of senior managers to rescue Navios from financial distress in the deep shipping slump of the early 1980s. While handling the restructuring of numerous freight contracts, he had an increasing desire to ‘become an owner of a business, rather than just an employee of the company,’ as he aptly puts it.
A spell at Citibank gave him valuable experience in the complexities of high finance, after which he returned to Navios in 1989 as an owner by virtue of the leveraged buyout that he had arranged with the backing of Citibank and Fednav. At the helm of the company for ten years, he transformed Navios to a profit-making, leading bulk shipping corporation. .
On one occasion, Sean Day remarks, the prospect arose of doing business with Torben Karlshoej, the founder of the Teekay Tanker Corporation. ‘Who is he?’ Day asked. ‘He’s a guy who runs his shipping company from his boat in the Bahamas,’ came the response. ‘We don’t deal with people like that,’ retorted Day, and the deal went flat. Little did he realise that shortly thereafter, he would be directly involved in the company established by the ‘guy on a boat in the Bahamas’ and would find that he shared so many of the business principles cherished by Karlshoej!
Noting all his talents, his sharp mind and his achievements, Teekay invited Day to join its board, and in 1999, once he and the other investors had sold Navios, he became the chairman of Teekay’s main board, and also is chairman of several other boards within the group.
With the astute Day as chairman and the equally sharp mind of Bjorn Moller, Teekay’s president, combining to form a most formidable team, the company moved from tanker ownership to its position as a leader in several oil-related fields, including its vital role in the Norwegian oil industry and offshore oil installations.
His style is that of a ‘hands-on’ chairman, and his time at sea allows him to understand some of the conditions under which seafarers work, and the intricacies of seafaring. When he visited the shuttle tanker Nordic Laurita that had been in the anchorage off Cape Town for several weeks waiting to load her next consignment from the FPSO off the South African coast, he learned that the ship had not been alongside for a long time. He scribbled a note in a little book he carries with him, and the following day, at his insistence, the tanker was alongside in Cape Town to enable the crew to enjoy a run ashore. ‘We must look after these people,’ he responded when asked about the ship’s sudden berthing in Cape Town.
He also serves on the boards of four other New York Stock Exchange companies, including Kirby Corporation, a company that operates tugs and barges on United States inland and coastal waterways, and to ascertain the conditions under which the tug crews operate, he joined one of the fleet for a trip along the Mississippi River.
Acclaimed for his contribution to shipping over more than three decades, he was elected commodore of the Connecticut Maritime Association in 2005.
Sean Day does more than simply remember his South African roots. To enable the Teekay board members to understand the potential and complexities of his original homeland, he brought them to South Africa in 2005, exposing them to experiences ranging from the sights and sounds of South African township life, to those of the Bushveld, that remarkable part of the country, rich in flora and fauna. Through his personal involvement – and that of his wife, Ginny, and four daughters – in various educational projects, he does much to encourage young South Africans to reach their full potential.
Having accomplished so much himself, Sean Day is a role model for those young people – including those from his native land – who are prepared to work hard amidst uncompromisingly high personal standards.