The Business Year

Richard Mitchell Regional

PORTUGAL - Transport

Go Big or Go Home

General Manager, Yilport Iberia


Richard Mitchell completed his education in business studies in Scotland and started his career at Ben Line, Edinburgh in 1979. He later joined Maersk Line in 1987 and was in the APMM Group until 2017. During this period, he gained experience in sales, marketing, operations, logistics, and general management. His last assignment was as managing director of the APMT facility in Luanda, Angola. He’s currently general manager of Yilport Iberia and responsible for eight terminals.

Yilport was founded only 15 years ago but the company has grown to become the 12th-best terminal operator in the world and aspires to be among the top 10 by 2025.

What is the background of Yilport and its key milestones?t

Yilport is a part of the Yildirim Group in Turkey, which is a major player in several fields and sectors, especially fertilizers, mining, and shipping. Robert Yuksel Yildirim founded Yilport when he started port management with several ports in Turkey in 2004 and 2005. That was the beginning of the company’s port management operations and over the years, several acquisitions have taken place, starting with ports in Norway and Sweden. The company also has a port in Malta, and more recently, the group expanded to Portugal by acquiring a company that has a total of eight terminals in Portugal and Spain. Moreover, we also have a presence in Peru, Ecuador, and Guatemala. The strategy of the group is to grow, and the model is to be among the top 10 terminal operators in the world by 2025. Currently, we are ranked number 12.

How would you evaluate the Portuguese market?

The Portuguese market is growing every year and our terminals are well placed to serve the gateway market. Therefore, we support the growth of our terminals and international commerce.

What advantages does Yilport have in Portugal, and what sets it apart from the competition?

The Yildirim Group acquired the portfolio three years ago and created a regional office that enabled it to invest in equipment, yard, land, ports, and systems. Most of the terminals we took over were in need of renovation and new equipment. Our immediate challenge is to modernize the infrastructure and update the equipment, in line with our philosophy to look after our customers and cater to their developing needs. This is further supported by new IT systems, which will ensure good communication between all actors, such as shipping lines, ports, custom authorities, clearing agents, and end users. By operating as a single business unit, we share the best operational, financial, technical, and safety practices; safety is high on our list of priorities. Notably, the group has seven ports in Portugal and offers its customers a chance to come to different ports and get accommodated in different ways. We have created a global operation center, through which we can maximize service quality for each customer and deal with one single system. This will improve efficiency and provide us with better opportunities to offer better services.

What are the challenges of investing in Portugal’s blue economy?

It is not an exceptionally difficult process compared to other parts in the world, but it still requires detailed planning and good collaboration between all the parties to get the best results. We have excellent relationship with our various stakeholders, such as port authorities, municipalities, the central government, and several banks and institutions.

What are your human resource requirements in Portugal, and how do you tackle it?

We are quite a young organization that has grown tremendously over the last three years. The group has a large team in Turkey that is still growing and developing experience and expertise. We require people working in the organization to be quick learners, and to that end, we have established strong development and training programs. There has also been a recruitment drive for senior positions so we can have a mixture of young talent and people with experience. Overall, enthusiasm for the company is quite refreshing and motivating.

What measures need to be taken to become more eco-friendly?

We have a strong drive to make each terminal as environmentally efficient as possible by developing an operation with modern eco-friendly machinery and automation.

What is your vision and main priorities for the coming year?

We have a strong focus on improving safety measures and procedures and implementing new financial and HR systems as well as a new operating system to manage the ports. Importantly, the fundamentals of the business and the port value propositions are strong. What is important is to spend time with customers and find some good solutions to ensure they want to come back to our terminals.



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