Graeme Marshall's decades-long involvement in the ports industry began in his mid-20s.

He had been working in Hastings as branch manager for a national wholsaler, when a job advert with a picture of a ship caught his eye. It was for a trade promotion officer at Napier Port, the first such position in the country.

"The job was closing the next day so I hand-delivered my application and was successful, despite having no port experience. I'd always had a passion for ships so I was very fortunate to end up in a career that related to shipping."

Mr Marshall spent 19 years at Napier Port, ending up as general manager, then moved to Port of Tauranga (POT) in 1997. He was commercial manager as Tauranga grew to become the country's leading port, stepping down in 2013 to take up a range of director and advisory positions.

Advertisement

POT chief executive Mark Cairns described him as one of the best people he had worked with in terms of developing long-term relationships with people.

"He really has to take a lot of credit for the way the port has transformed into conducting itself as a customer-driven business. Graeme really put a lot of work into how we wanted to conduct the business."

Mr Marshall is a forceful advocate of the importance of good governance, especially for small and medium enterprises, is deeply involved in biosecurity issues as chairman of the Biosecurity Ministerial Advisory Committee, and is on the Bay of Connections governance group.

Brought up in Taranaki, Mr Marshall left school and went straight into a job that suited his love of ships, working for freight company Hooker Brothers, then got headhunted for a position in Wellington as a customs broker.

He did not enjoy the job much and began doing projects for Rotoract, a Rotary-sponsored organisation. He caught the attention of a Rotarian who offered him a job at Skellerup Industries in Wellington. That ended up with him becoming branch manager for Skellerup in Hastings at the age of 23, where he spent two years before joining the port.

Mr Marshall moved to POT when it was in its early stages of the container terminal's operations, in a role that included business development, marketing and operations.

"We were very fortunate as a team to really have a blank canvas," he said. "The container terminal had been built, but there was virtually no business for it then. It was such a brilliant opportunity to do something with a piece of infrastructure that had been built, but wasn't being used."

He stepped down from the role at 62, feeling it was time to move into semi-retirement. However, he was then offered what became a two year commuting part-time role looking after business development at Port of Tauranga (POT)-controlled Timaru Container Terminal. He also served a brief term as acting chief executive for PrimePort Timaru, a 50-50 POT joint venture.

In 2015 he was approached to do business development for another POT 50 per cent joint venture, Northport. "Northport had just purchased a new container crane and we were seeking business for it, so I was taken on to assist them in finding new container business," said Mr Marshall who continues in that role on a part-time basis.

He became a director of Port Taranaki in 2014.

Mr Marshall has been married to Jen for 40 years and they have three sons.

He said he tried to live his life by the old maxim that there was no limit to the amount of good a person could do if he did not care who took the credit. His main aim was to work on the basis that it did not matter who got the glory, so long as the job got done, he said.

Mr Marshall has been an active supporter and intern coach for the past seven years of Second Base, which provides values-based leadership programmes in international settings. His work has been focused in Nepal. He is also a board member of the related charity Face Nepal, which organises child sponsorship and volunteers in Nepal for community projects.

Zoe Dryden, the founder of both Second Base and Face Nepal, described Mr Marshall as being generous in his desire to see things become successful

"Graeme doesn't come into things opportunistically or for personal accolades," she said.

Graeme Marshall:

* Roles include: Business development, Northport; director, Port Taranaki; chairman, Biosecurity Ministerial Advisory Committee

* Born: Opunake, New Zealand

* Age: 64

* First job: Export clerk

* Recently read: Life Lessons from the Monk who sold his Ferrari by Robin Sharman