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Ian James

The Man Behind The Ports

Ian James came on board MMC Port Holdings Sdn Bhd as the Chief Executive Officer on 4 January 2016. MMC Port Holdings Sdn Bhd (MMC Ports) was set up to consolidate all the ports under MMC Group under one holding company. Ian James, having 32 years of experience in the transportation industry under his belt, was chosen to be the man to lead this exciting new venture of taking MMC Ports to the next stage.


Sea water flows through his veins as Ian is the fifth generation to have answered the calling to sail the seas through shipping. Since leaving his home of Singapore to sail the world at 17 years old, Ian has collected many different experiences through his career.

He started his journey as a Deck Cadet Officer in 1981 and rose up the ranks to become the Acting Chief Officer with Neptune Orient Lines having spent some 10 years serving of container, tankers and general cargo vessels. Moving his career to dry land, he embarked on a new path as a Marine Surveyor in Rotterdam. He then joined Norasia Lines, where he held several regional operational & commercial roles after moving to Hong Kong in 1996. Since then, his career has taken him to Canada, Singapore and Australia, holding Senior Management positions in the greater transport industry with stints at DB Schenker, PSA Singapore Terminals and United Arab Shipping Company before making Malaysia his new home with his wife and three children.

Prior to joining MMC Port Holdings Sdn Bhd, he served as the Chief Operating Officer of Westports Malaysia where he oversaw the operations, activities and resources in both the Container and Conventional Terminals.


Ian holds a Master Mariner qualification and a Master of Science in International Transport from the University of Wales College of Cardiff, United Kingdom, in 1993.


Ian brings with him a wide experience and the ability to look at things from different aspects. Having worked from three sides of the fence, he is able to look at the customers’ perspective while appreciating the value the terminals play to the seaside and landside community.

Considering the fact that he has been in different parts of the industry, he has a high level of clarity and understanding in meeting customers’ needs. He also credits having a lot of highly qualified individuals working alongside him. He advocates that managers should not be afraid to surround themselves with people smarter than him/herself, as it is the team’s contribution that leads to success.


What he likes most about his job and the business he is in is that there is never a dull day. He is overseeing all the moving parts and how everyone is working in unison. His working life is constantly evolving; It is exciting to never have to sit still.

Ian is a hands-on manager because it is a hands-on business. He feels strongly that CEOs need to be on the ground as terminals cannot be run from ivory towers. At the end of the day, it is a people-driven business. He firmly believes that the success of MMC Ports lies on the shoulders of the 9,000 over employees of Port of Tanjung Pelepas, Johor Port, Northport, Penang Port and Tanjung Bruas Port in Melaka as well as the two logistics companies, JPLogistics and Kontena Nasional, who work together to propel the Company forward.

But as a manager, he empowers his staff to make decisions and to learn through mistakes. He adopts a simple but effective working style and keeps an open door policy which encourages people to engage with him any time of day or night.  His work ethics are based on integrity, teamwork and active employee engagement.

Another crucial element of his work involves mentoring people below him. The message he instils to them is that they have to put themselves out there and on the ground. They have to walk the floor in order to truly master the operations and connect with the people. He also holds integrity as the most important quality for any employee to have.

The Future of MMC Ports

MMC Ports is on a voyage to place Malaysia at the forefront of the world. A fact that most people don’t realise is that when the five ports were brought together, we became the world’s 8th largest port operating group in terms of throughput – and we are only one country. So we’ve done substantially well just by bringing the ports together. The consolidation of MMC Ports gives us a competitive edge to build our name and our brand. The Company is moving in the right direction and is receiving recognition in the transport industry.

We are Malaysia’s largest ports and we should very much pride ourselves as being Malaysia’s ports. As a whole, it controls approximately 58% of Malaysia container throughput.  Being a larger consolidated entity, it will enable the company to leverage on the scale and breadth of its operations, achieve economies of scale, adopt best practices which then will help bring sustainable value to customers.


Ian espouses the need to double the profits, optimise costs, improve both top and bottom line, enhance processes, and do whatever it takes to hit our 2018 goals. He summarises that the Company has started to explore potential partnerships in an effort to extend its footprint and expand regionally. The next phase is vital to expand on existing connectivity and therefore ensure continuous growth.

Impressions of MMC

His first impression was that we have a lot of talent in MMC. As he interacted more and more with the Senior Management team and his colleagues, he quickly found a collective genuine interest and understanding of each and every business in the conglomerate. This is indeed unique.

The entire MMC group machinery is cohesive; Everyone knows what is going on. People are hungry, and he was pleasantly surprised by the youthful and dynamic energy of the team that manages to run such a huge conglomerate.

Words of Wisdom

The person that inspires him the most is Nelson Mandela. Mandela’s leadership qualities and his ability to forgive, even after suffering for a long time for his beliefs, is admirable and continues to move him. “It always seems impossible until it is done” are the words of Mandela which he keeps near and dear to his heart.