Nic and Marjorie Zoretic spent the past decade navigating parallel sailing careers and now shoreside positions with Foss, TOTE.
Nic and Marjorie Zoretic first crossed paths at the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York.
Nic, born and raised in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio, describes his childhood as “wholesome Americana;” his mother was an elementary school teacher, his father a police officer.
“I spent a lot of time playing either army or race car driver, which – surprising enough – would go on to be a common theme in my life,” he laughed.
Marjorie grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, a suburban area outside of Washington, D.C. She wanted to be a pilot.
“To empower my excitement for flying, my father let me take flying lessons when I was only seven years old,” she said. “I was always very adventurous. I thought I’d grow up to be a professional athlete, a police detective, or a pilot. But I realized that the maritime profession was where I was meant to be.”
Graduating together in 2008, the couple married in Virginia in 2014. They’ve spent the better part of the past decade navigating parallel sailing careers, and, in recent years, shoreside positions within the Saltchuk family of companies. Marjorie joined Foss Maritime in 2017; Nic accepted a position at TOTE Maritime two years later. They’ve settled in Jacksonville, Florida, both currently earning their Executive MBAs through Jacksonville University, scheduled to graduate in the spring.
“Diversity of experience in the same industry really helps us as a team,” Marjorie explained.
A seafaring legacy
Nic Zoretic is a sailor – but also a soldier.
“My dream was always to serve as an officer in the U.S. military,” he said, a dream he realized after graduating from the Merchant Marine Academy in 2008 when he joined the U.S. Army National Guard as a transportation officer. He spent more than 10 years aboard ships as a deck officer, minus a year spent deployed to Afghanistan as a platoon leader.
Marjorie Zoretic also spent her first 10 post-college years sailing – and she isn’t the first female seafarer in her family.
“Some of my ancestors captained whaling vessels out of New Bedford,” she said. “The wives of these whaling captains went to sea with their husbands, learned how to navigate, and kept diaries – one of which is still in our family.”
She even has a direct ancestor who gave birth in Hawaii during a long sea voyage.
“I most look up to my grandfather, who retired as a Captain in the Navy and was a brilliant engineer and naval architect,” she continued. “At his funeral, many of his colleagues came up to tell me how much they revered his integrity and his values: ‘When your grandfather said something, you could always be certain it was the absolute truth.’ That quote has stayed with me.”
Marjorie’s first job after Kings Point was on an LNG Tanker she joined in Trinidad.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better first sailing job,” she said. “We alternated between transporting LNG around the world on the spot market and regasification operations in Boston, Kuwait, and Argentina. Early in my career, I knew I wanted to work on tankers because I felt like it was the perfect blend of engineering and deck operations. My time on LNG tankers allowed me to navigate the most famous stretches of water in the world. I learned how to navigate through dense fishing- vessel traffic in the South China sea and busy shipping lanes like the Strait of Hormuz and the Malacca Straits.”
In addition to her years on the LNG tankers, Marjorie worked on product tankers and drill ships, raising her license to Chief Mate unlimited and 1,600-ton Master. She said she’s been surprised at how much she and Nic have been able to echo each other in their careers in a way that allows them to benefit from each other’s experiences in the industry while developing quickly.
“We’ve done this by making decisions as a team and not prioritizing one career over the other,” she explained.
Finding balance in Jacksonville
Marjorie joined Foss Maritime as an Operations Manager for the Clean Jacksonville LNG Bunker Barge project in 2017. Less than a year into the job, she also took on Project Management responsibilities, representing the owner and coordinating with the shipyard during the final stages of construction and commissioning.
“With a hand-picked team of talented mariners, we were responsible for building the operation for the first LNG bunkering in North America and creating a reliable service,” she said.
She was soon promoted to General Manager for the Atlantic Region responsible for two of the most technically complicated assets under Foss management: transporting LNG as a fuel for TOTE and Rocket Components for United Launch Alliance.
Foss handed the operation of the barge over to its sister company, TOTE Services, in August of this year. Marjorie said she elected to stay with Foss and transition into her brand new role as Director of Business Development-Government Services, where she works with colleagues across operational Saltchuk Marine companies and departments to pursue new business opportunities.
“Government business has the potential to touch almost every type of operation that Foss does.,” she said. “Foss has a broad operational scope, and this provides a steady stream of challenges and new ideas that keep me interested and excited about my job.”
Nic, meanwhile, came shoreside in the spring of 2019, joining TOTE Maritime as Director of Operations. Prior to accepting his current role, he filled in for two weeks as Barge Supervisor for the container barges TOTE was running.
“I would say that was my initial foot-in-the-door proving trial with TOTE,” he said. “When the Director of Operations role came available, a friend at TOTE Services suggested I apply for it. I’m very happy to be working alongside a team of high-performing and caring people, one of which luckily is my wife.”
“Nic moved to Jacksonville for the opportunity I found with Foss, and that gave him a chance to learn more about a different aspect of the industry and make the successful transition to TOTE,” Marjorie continued. “One advantage of working for Foss is that it allows for Nic and me to continue to benefit from each other’s experiences inside Saltchuk without being on a conflicting career ladder.”
Nic said his greatest challenge thus far has been adjusting his work-life balance to shoreside work.
“When I was sailing six months a year, I would work 16 hours a day – there wasn’t much else to do but work,” he laughed. “But when I went home for my time off, I was totally off for the other six months of the year – no phone calls or broken valves to repair when you are home away from the ship. Now that I’m a ‘landlubber,’ learning how to control my time, especially with regard to work-life balance has been a skill that luckily I’m getting much better at. I know Margie appreciates it.”
Nic said he’s most proud of his combat deployment to Afghanistan and bringing all his soldiers home safe.
“My Mom asked why I had to go in the first place and I told her, ‘If not me, then who?’ I couldn’t in good conscious let another person take my place when I was capable and ready to lead.”
He said he and Marjorie are committed to finishing their MBA program and someday starting a family.
“I’m just looking forward to whatever the future brings and trying to learn as much as I can,” he said. “The older you get, the less you seem to know. There is just so much out there in the world and not enough time to learn about it.”
He said his hobbies are “often in direct conflict.”
“On one hand, I love golf – the quiet peacefulness and beautiful landscapes,” he said. “On the other hand, I enjoy auto racing. The smell of racing fuel and the sound of high RPM is just awesome. If I wasn’t working for TOTE, I would probably be a Formula 1 driver and PGA tour golfer while moonlighting as an astronaut when I found the time. But seriously, if somehow I could make money giving financial advice I would. I really enjoy chatting with people about personal finance. I don’t want to sell anyone anything, just empower people with knowledge that will help them in life. So many people over the years have given me great advice, and I would love to pass that on.”
Marjorie said she and Nic also love hiking, running, and cycling together. She completed an Ironman in 2012. Professionally, she’s most proud of the operations team from Clean Jacksonville, specifically the safety culture they built and the resilience and dedication the team demonstrated while building a reliable operation and becoming the very first to bunker LNG as a fuel by barge in America.
“I see a future at Foss and in the Saltchuk family of companies that will allow me to expand my influence and make the biggest positive impact to society and the environment as I can,” she said. “If I could do anything else and money wasn’t a concern, I would simply go out into the world, collect interesting life experiences, help others, and write a book about it.”
On the same shore
Nic said TOTE will likely be “unrecognizable” within the next 10 years – in a good way.
“Digital technologies, automation, and process improvement will be enhancing, if not controlling, all workflows,” he explained. “The variety of projects I’ve been able to be involved in over the years is just incredible. From handling livestock to LNG, there’s never a dull day at TOTE. Kids these days are pushed so hard to pick their life path and specialize at a young age. I think that is actually detrimental to development.”
Marjorie said she’s excited about the talent Foss has brought in to help business leaders take advantage of data and financial analytics tools that will help Foss make better business decisions faster than its competition.
“I’m bullish that during the next five years, our improved processes will help Foss business leaders break away from distractions and become hyper-focused on building the business and leveraging our pool of talent to execute new opportunities.
“Foss changed the industry by pioneering tractor tug technology for tanker escorts, we were the first to bunker LNG by barge, and we’ve consistently built creative solutions for our customers throughout our long history. I believe we’ll disrupt the industry again during the next 10 years by facilitating teamwork, empowering the entrepreneurial talent in our organization, and responding creatively to the needs of our customers.”
As far as their personal relationship, they agreed they’re glad to be looking to the future while standing on the same shore.
“Nic and I spent a lot of our early relationship away from each other because of our sailing careers,” Marjorie concluded. “We really enjoy being able to see each other every day now. While we both miss the excitement of sailing, I know we’ll have new exciting chapters ahead of us in the future.”