Rumours had been rife for some time that Maersk’s current country manager in Thailand Michel Deleuran was to leave Maersk and work for another company.
The man himself was eventually happy to scotch the rumours, which it transpired were only partially correct.
“Yes, I am heading for Tokyo before the end of the month and there I will start work as regional manager but still for Maersk and managing North East Asia.
“I got the job offer from our top management, an offer I was very happy to receive and to proudly accept,” he explains, looking forward to new horizons.
“I have spent almost 14 years in Asia, but have never lived in North Asia.”
But even though he is leaving Thailand, Michel Deleuran does not expect much time to pass before he returns to the Land of Smiles.
“I am leaving with mixed feelings as I have been very happy here these last three years. Plus I am leaving a lot of friends behind so it probably won’t be long before I return. If it isn’t on business it will be on vacation,” he smiles.
Meantime, few people would argue that Maersk is recognised as one of the world’s most efficient and successful privately-held business organisations, certainly in the field of shipping and has a reputation for hiring and training the best in the business too.
The new man in Bangkok, where Maersk’s Thailand headquarters are, comes from his position as country manager in Indonesia. But before Søren P. Jensen can claim the office as his own, Michel Deleuran, who has been in charge during the last three years, has to move to his new position further to the North.
The change of managers is timely, coinciding as it does with major changes within the company itself. The company has changed its name to Maersk Line after merging with P&O Nedlloyd. The merger has also resulted in virtually rebuilding of the Bangkok office on the 41st floor of Empire Tower, Sathorn Road which saw the offices extended with 1800 square meters. The Maersk offices now totals roughly 5200 square meter in the impressive high rise building.
And in the middle of the changes Søren P. Jensen finds himself completely prepared to cope with his new challenge.
“I come from a similar job in Indonesia where I was for two years and it is almost the same setup, just a little smaller. But of course every country has different challenges.”
“Typically when you start in a new job inside Maersk you get two weeks with your predecessor, which is why I have been in Bangkok for two weeks now. I still run shifts between Indonesia and Bangkok. But I am on the last week now, and as of Wednesday I stand on my own two feet here in Bangkok,” he says with a smile ahead of the day when Michel Deleuran hands over responsibility to him.
When Søren P. Jensen does take his seat in the executive chair, he will handle 700-800 employees – a few hundred more than in Indonesian and at the same time he will continue to keep an eye on Indonesia, as Maersk as of yet has not appointed his successor. But that isn’t something that causes him any unease.
“Thailand consists of a really good team – something the country is known for. So even though I will be in Indonesia a few days a month, they are able to cope so I have no need to be nervous,” he says.
Jensen began his career with as a trainee with Maersk in 1988 – just after he finished a trade school education in his home town – the harbour city Esbjerg. But why he chose a career at Maersk is not something he can explain.
“I guess it was partly because of me growing up where I did. There are ships, a harbour and so on. But I am not sure on why I picked life as a mariner. I was looking at the shelves with career opportunities and it sounded kind of exciting. There was an international aspect; and it is a business that is always on the move. Ships are always sailing,” he says.
“Anyway, the choice was between East Asiatic and A.P. Møller – and the A.P. deal sounded just a little better – and in retrospect I was lucky to have picked them,” he finishes with a smile.
Søren’s road to Thailand has practically taken him right around the globe.
“I have been stationed in U.S.A., Russia, Indonesia and I have also been quite a few years in Copenhagen,” he explains, outlining a career which has now taken him to Bangkok, where the roots of Maersk have grown deep over the generations.
Their operations started here in 1951 and since then they have grown steadily, interrupted briefly by the 1997 Asia-wide financial crash.
“There was a dive, when the Asian tigers were tamed for a time. But now most are well over it and Thailand is on the way to developing into a very major economy,” Jensen says, seeing as he does great potential in his new area of responsibility.
“It is possible to find countries where it is cheaper to operate – Indonesia for example. But Thailand has a good balance between fair prices and good educational opportunities. And we do not need to be pricing ourselves too low be able to sell our services either.”
Jensen has been with Maersk for 18 years already, but what is it that the company offers that makes him stay?
“The thing about Maersk is that you are constantly challenged. You constantly have to adapt to something new. If it isn’t a challenge of leadership, it is something else. This is what drives you,” he explains, adding:
“The work you do has an effect on others. If a ship isn’t on time, then someone else might not be able to continue their work. On the other hand, you are also able to see that you have actually done something during the run of a day – and it is always inspiring to work with skilled people.”
Jensen says, he applied for the job in Thailand for two simple reasons.
“Thailand is a fantastic country for Maersk – it has a lot of potential, and it helps too that it is a nice place for my family.”
The new country manager is 37, and his children are named Olivia and Sebastian, aged four and seven. They and his wife travel with him around the globe. But even though only his daughter has ever lived in Denmark – none of them have doubt as to where they belong.
“They see themselves as Danish and if you ask them they will say proudly that they are from Denmark,” he explains and when it comes to Søren himself, he is in no doubt as to his origins.
“I am from Esbjerg and that is also where I feel at home.”
When he isn’t at the office, Søren spends most of his time with his family, but right now he is having a hard time finding that extra time.
“I am virtually doing nothing else but travelling back and forth between Bangkok and Indonesia although normally I spend most of my spare time with my children. We hang out or go to the movies or do something for fun.”
But there are also things that the new Thailand manager would like to change.
“I should probably be doing more sports. I have just started playing golf,” he explains, but is reluctant to discuss his abilities this soon.
“My golfing has great potential for development,” he says smiling.