On 31 December Peder Gellert turned 60, and on Friday, 22 February, he celebrates his 25th anniversary with DFDS – and a career that took off with the major political changes in the wake of the Soviet Union’s dissolution and which is closely linked to DFDS’ recent history and many colleagues and partners. Below the general portrait, we have therefore chosen to bring the full interview in three stories.
Peder Gellert Pedersen’s career is a true maritime adventure. But when he started at DFDS on 22 February 1994, he probably did not foresee that he would be celebrating his 25th anniversary as DFDS’ ‘admiral’ in Group Management – or more precisely, as Executive Vice President with responsibility for DFDS’ Ferry Division.
With an architect as a father and a mother taking care of the home in Fredericia, and a port that was then primarily known for shipping North Sea oil, there was nothing that pointed in this direction.
But today there is little doubt who is in the end making the decisions in the division. Peder Gellert is plotting the course with a leadership style that is a mixture of a business mind that spots opportunities before others do, an inherited Jutlandic stubbornness and resilience, and shaped by both patriarchal styled bosses and more inclusive ones. And always with an open mind to meet people, listen to them and being open for cooperation.
This has been a very successful recipe – for Peder and DFDS, as development so clearly shows:
As a young man who had finished school, education and an apprenticeship at Fredericia Shipping and Spedition, he saw an opportunity – and was co-initiator in gathering small and medium-sized feed buyers so that they could trade directly with the global suppliers. Among other things, they secured the first call at a Danish port with a large Maersk ship carrying 42,000 tonnes of coal and grain. It was one of the initiatives that later made Fredericia an important port town.
And even more importantly from a DFDS perspective: With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Fredericia Shipping offered the transport of grain from the EC’s surplus stocks to the Baltic States, and Peder Gellert travelled there to secure the deliveries. There he met Sergei Teriochin, who is still with DFDS Baltic, and with whom he set up a company to control the loading and unloading in ports throughout the former Soviet Union for customers in the west. In this work, he saw a new opportunity in the growing numbers of trucks driving through Poland.
So in 1994, he took the initiative to start one of the first ferry routes to the Baltic countries, Dan-Liet Line, that had the first departure from Fredericia to Lithuania on 22 February 1994. DFDS later became a shareholder. The start of this route on 22 February 1994 was therefore also Peder’s debut at DFDS. And it was the start of DFDS’ route network in the Baltic as it led to DFDS’ takeover of Lithuania’s state-owned ferry company LISCO, now BU Baltic.
It didn’t come easy, and it required all his Jutlandic stubbornness and a growing business partnership with LISCO’s commercial director, our former colleague Samuil Vindergauz. Peder regards him as living proof of the importance of being open to changes and people. After cooperation about a ship charter from LISCO to DFDS and several years of meetings with four prime ministers and the country’s first parliamentary chairman, Vytautas Landsbergis, Peder secured DFDS’ takeover of the company and its routes from Klaipėda to Sweden, Germany and Denmark.
The experiences from Lithuania have shown Peder how important it is to take integration tasks seriously – “for you only do it once”. Therefore, he has dedicated his full attention to the integration of BU Med after the acquisition of UN Ro-Ro in Turkey in April 2018.
Since his Baltic days, Peder Gellert has taken further responsibility, including for the former Tor-Line and Norfolkline ferry business, and now he manages Europe’s largest and fastest growing ferry network. In addition to the Baltic it includes the North Sea, the English Channel and the Mediterranean, a fleet of over 60 ships, terminals, sales organisations across Europe and nine new giant ships under construction in China. He will certainly enjoy this, but probably in his own, downplayed Jutlandic way of celebrating.
“The fact that we have combined passenger and freight ferries has given a fantastic dynamic, because the passenger business is more developed on the digital platform – and the behaviour we see on the passenger side is also coming to freight. We need to find new ways to serve our customers which will make it easier to engage with us so that we, as a leader in ro-ro, can live up to our obligation to also lead the digital development,” he says.
“I also think that the Ferry Division will develop on what lies beyond the distance from quay to quay. We have to offer to move the units all the way to and from inland terminals closer to the customers. It had a kick-start with UN Ro-Ro and their efficient intermodal transport to and from the ports of Trieste and Toulon, he says.
“I also think that with DFDS as a pan-European player, they have to feed traffic into our network from outside – such as via the silk road from Asia via Russia, or deep-sea shipping.”
Peder always cooperated well with his bosses – with the former DFDS CEO Ole Frie who was a lighthouse in logistics, but who left limited space for management under him. But then Niels comes in with a completely different management style. He came from an unrelated industry and is in a completely different way ready to listen, delegate and include. “It gave me a great responsibility, because Niels listened to my recommendations. But it also gave me new degrees of freedom and a completely different, real responsibility,” says Peder.
The Good cooperation seems to be mutual
“Peder is a super colleague who in Group Management is an invaluable source of knowledge about the industry, the ships and the customers. He is a principled and talented businessman with great strategic and tactical understanding, one who knows his values and is always ready to take the lead – even when it comes to complicated decisions,” says DFDS’ CEO Niels Smedegaard, who also points to an underplayed humour with edge and wit.
Peder Gellert Pedersen lives with his wife Carina in Tuborg Harbour in Hellerup. They have a son of 29 who is a customer service and performance manager at MSC.
You will be able to congratulate Peder with his birthday and anniversary at a reception on 28 February, 15:00-17:00 in DFDS House.
Read the full interview in three stories:
Peder Gellert’s career starts in Fredericia Shipping & Spedition
February 22, 2019