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Tropical’s Country Manager Glenis Hodge said demand for shipping is ‘just the tip of the iceberg.’

Long before ‘oil’ became the newest buzzword and main driver of the Guyanese economy, Tropical Shipping offered fast shipping between West Palm Beach and Georgetown, Guyana, the South American country’s capital and largest city.

“We love to emphasize our seven-day transit because there’s nothing else that even comes close to that,” said Mark Lopez, assistant vice president of Tropical Shipping. “Back in 2002, when Tropical first entered the Guyanese market, refrigerated cargo was minimal. The focus was on dry groceries from the United States and Trinidad, as well as building materials and personal effects.”

Today, Guyana, a country of less than a million people, is poised to become the world’s fourth-largest offshore oil producer. The country’s GDP per capita is experiencing an unprecedented surge, and it’s expected to remain one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, with double-digit growth rates in 2023 and 2024. In 2022 alone, Guyana reported GDP growth of 57.8 percent, resulting in a surge in shipping demand to meet its burgeoning needs.

“A lot has changed—the demand has been relentless and exciting,” Lopez said. “Refrigerated cargo from the United States supports ballooning fast food franchises, grocery stores, and the business hospitality sector, which has really taken off.”

Overseeing it all from her modest office overlooking the Port of Georgetown, Tropical Shipping Country Manager Glenis Hodge has seen it all unfold.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” she said, “since more diversification of the economy— including developing more value-added products and the expansion of other industries—will contribute to a shipping paradise that we at Tropical are well-equipped to handle.”

An industry pioneer

Glenis Hodge grew up in a close-knit family, one of seven children. She attended neighborhood schools, wanting to become a dietician or an attorney before her first job in 1983 at the Guyana National Shipping Co. (GNSC) exposed her to the shipping industry. Hodge went on to attend the Arthur Lok Jack Global School of Business at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and the Caribbean Maritime Institute in Jamaica.

“I was hooked,” she said. “The job encouraged me to be innovative, and in the various positions I held throughout my 10 years at GNSC, I was blessed to meet some amazing professionals who trained and mentored me in many areas of shipping and logistics. I also met the love of my life at GNSC, and we are looking forward, this year, to celebrating our 31st wedding anniversary and 38 years of love and friendship.”

In 1994, Tecmarine Lines, one of the shipping lines for which GNSC was the agent, decided to open their own office in Guyana. Hodge accepted a position with Tecmarine as a Service Manager.

“Glenis is known in Guyana as a pioneer in the shipping industry,” said Lopez. “Back when she started, she was one of the few, if not the only, female managers in Guyana. She’s built a strong reputation with her professionalism, responsiveness, and high ethical standards.”

When Tropical purchased Tecmarine in 2002, Hodge decided to stay—a decision she said she’s never regretted.

“I remember that emotions were running high during that chaotic period, as we didn’t get prior notice about the acquisition of Tecmarine Lines by Tropical,” she explained. “While sitting in the office late one afternoon trying to process the acquisition news and contemplating how we would produce the Bls for vessel departure, the phone rang. The person on the other side was a long-standing employee of Tropical. She had recently received the news and wanted to try out the telephone number to the new company, not expecting anyone to answer. We had a pleasant exchange, and with our mutual desire to understand the work of both companies, she willingly shared advice on how to access the Tropical information database. I was encouraged by this newfound source of information and made the decision to stay with this new company that had taken the time to document so many aspects of the business. Even though I wasn’t familiar with Tropical Shipping at the time, I had this peace inside of me that allowed me to believe it was a stable company. I have never regretted my decision to stay.”

In 2004, a management decision was made by Tropical to continue operations in Guyana using Agency representation.

“Through various Agencies, to date, the weekly service to and from Guyana continues, and I count it a blessing to lead our dedicated team of Agency staff.”

Map of the caribean. Two markers are placed on Miami, US and Georgetown, Guyana.

Export focus

Guyana is on a path of unprecedented economic growth and development due to its world-class offshore oil discovery and gas reserves. Opportunities for trade, infrastructure development, e-commerce, and the diversification of the economy—even for internationally recognized hotel chains to establish a presence—have led to growth in imports and exports that Tropical has already noticed.

“Living in an emerging economy like Guyana is exciting,” Hodge confirmed. “One of our nation’s goals is to produce more food for the local and regional markets, thereby reducing our food import bill by 25 percent by 2025. This will open increased opportunities for export for Tropical due to our already established logistic network in the region.”

In fact, Hodge said a current challenge she’s working to overcome is an imbalance as it relates to container sizes in the import and export of cargo. Throughout the years, customers have been importing more 40-foot containers of cargo while exporting 20-foot containers.

“Even though we are steadily gaining ground on this goal, there’s still lots of work to be done. The idea is to bring in more 20-foot containers and export more 40-foot containers, minimizing the number of empty containers leaving our port in Guyana. We continue our efforts to network with businesses to achieve increased exports. It’s a joy working with my local team and Tropical’s management and sales teams in the ports that we serve towards this goal. I’m very proud of the service Tropical is offering and the relationships we continue to develop based on our timely service—the building of long-lasting relationships with our customers, being able to provide logistics solutions for the growth of their businesses, and the many opportunities I get to interact and share my experiences with young people in the sector. It is amazing to be a part of a company that empowers you to become the best you can be by providing the mentorship, tools of trade, opportunities for personal growth and development, and truly making people a priority.”

Professional headshot of Hodge.

Versatility and vision

Despite all the success she’s experienced in her career, Hodge said she wishes she’d taken more time for her family.

“I’m not proud of my earlier years when I didn’t understand and develop a good work-life balance. It caused pain, especially for my family, but with the lessons learned, I’m now able to make a huge difference in others by sharing my experiences and allowing them to avoid some of the pitfalls. Thankfully, despite my shortcomings, our children have been able to qualify themselves and start their careers with the help of my husband.”

A self-described woman of faith, Hodge said her future plans involve “being more open to the leading of God, making myself available to listen to the needs of some of the younger generation that I come into contact with, and providing support and mentorship—especially working with young women and girls to develop various skill sets to better equip and empower themselves.”

She’s an active member of her local church, and also a member of the Shipping Association of Guyana, the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association, Women in Maritime, and Tropical’s USA Giving Committee. She received an Outstanding Business Executive Award in March 2013 from the Shipping Association of Guyana in recognition of the versatility, vision, and outstanding achievements of a female business executive. She was among five women who each received an award from the Shipping Association of Guyana in December 2022 recognizing the Sterling Contribution of Women to the work and development of the Shipping Association of Guyana.

“Glenis is a dynamic Country Manager—a steady leader who’s waited patiently for her country’s time in the sunshine and a superb representative for Tropical,” said Tropical Shipping Director Jennifer Nugent-Hill.

“The last several years have seen a lot of changes for Tropical in Guyana,” Lopez concluded, “including a port change, rapid growth, and the expansion of Tropical Shipping’s footprint. Glenis has handled it all seamlessly and worked through obstacles with patient diplomacy. She’s of the highest moral character and is deeply dedicated to her family, her staff, and Tropical’s success.”

Hilary Reeves

Hilary Reeves spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining the Saltchuk family of companies as a consultant. Since People of Saltchuk launched in 2014, Reeves has interviewed more than 200 Saltchuk employees from operating companies all over the world. Born in Tacoma, Washington, Reeves is a former president of both the collegiate and local professional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists, a graduate of the Society’s Ted Scripps Leadership Institute, and a Toastmaster. When she’s not writing, she loves to read, ski, and practice the piano. She lives in West Seattle with her husband and two young daughters.