Tim DiPietropolo enjoys ‘sharing how exciting our industry and the Caribbean region is with the next generation.’
By Hilary Reeves
The evening before the Tropical Shipping container ship Tropic Dawn’s first scheduled voyage into the shallow waters of Parrot Cay, Tim DiPietropolo’s Proline speedboat was having engine problems.
“The plan was for me to meet the Dawn at the channel entrance with my personal boat, and then head in with the Captain for one final inspection of the beach landing area,” said DiPietropolo, now an Assistant Vice President at Tropical.
DiPietropolo was the company’s Turks & Caicos Island Manager back in July of 2007. He said Tropical was determined to serve not only the main islands of Providenciales, Grand Turk, and South Caicos, but was supporting the development of the smaller outer islands as well – islands notoriously difficult to deliver cargo to due to their shallow ports.
“We negotiated with developers on Parrot Cay for a direct voyage from West Palm Beach to Parrot Cay Resort where they were beginning the next phase of luxury residences,” he continued. “We spent countless hours surveying the channel and weeks preparing for this voyage to ensure success. Part of the preparation included bringing the ship’s Captain on board a fishing boat to assess the approaches. This was an ambitious undertaking and there were many who doubted we would be able to not only maneuver such a large vessel into the channel but perform a beach landing to discharge the Roll-On/Roll-Off cargo.”
However, it was DiPietropolo’s Proline that became the temporary star of the show.
“The day before the scheduled arrival of the vessel into Parrot Cay, my Proline required an unexpected engine repair – as a result, I spent the entire night with my marine technician completing repairs until 3 a.m. to ensure we were able to ride out and greet the ship prior to its arrival in Parrot Cay,” he laughed. “In the end, it all came together and we had no issues. It just goes to show that Tropical is truly committed to island life, and we go to extremes to make things happen for our customers.”
‘Some great ports of call’
DiPietropolo grew up in Tabernacle, New Jersey, one of seven children and the youngest of four boys. He was active in sports, worked with his older brother developing his startup water treatment business, and was active in a youth military program, the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets.
“I began my ‘seafaring’ interest through this program at the age of 11, following in two of my older brother’s footsteps,” he said.
He began working at an early age, in roofing and construction, lawn maintenance, water treatment service and repair, and then as a teller at Commerce Bank in New Jersey during his high school years before attending the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Marine Transportation, a U.S. Coast Guard Third Mate’s Unlimited Tonnage License, and a Reserve commission in the U.S. Navy.
“I guess you could consider my year at sea as a Cadet at Kings Point, sailing with the likes of Wallenius Lines, Navieras de Puerto Rico, Farrel Lines, Liberty Maritime, and SeaLand, as the beginning of my journey in transportation and logistics,” he said. “Originally, I wanted to become a Navy fighter pilot. That all changed when I jumped onboard my first ship for Sea Year and fell in love with the maritime industry. I was on a car carrier with Wallenius, transporting new BMWs, Jaguars, and Mercedes between Northern Europe and the United States – I had some great port calls as a 19-year-old college student.”
Later in his career, he attended the University of Maryland for a Dual Master’s Program where he earned both an MBA and a Master’s in International Management. While serving in the military, he graduated from the U.S. Naval War College with another Master’s degree, this time in National Security and Strategic Studies with a focus on Latin America and the Caribbean.
After graduating from Kings Point, DiPietropolo joined Tropical Shipping as a Management Trainee. He moved from New York to West Palm Beach, Florida in 2000.
“As a Management Trainee at Tropical, I had the amazing opportunity to go through what Rick Murrell likes to refer to as ‘Tropical University’” he said. “I was able to learn the business by being exposed to a variety of different areas within the organization in a support role, as well as expanding my knowledge of our customers and the Tropical business model. Some of these roles included Pricing, Island Sales, Marketing, LCL Warehouse Operations, Trade Management, and finally in the Operations Control Center before landing in my first permanent position as the Country Manager for the Turks & Caicos Islands” – where he experienced the Tropic Dawn’s ultimate triumph.
Eleven years after joining Tropical, DiPietropolo left the organization to join Maersk Line in Arlington, Virginia. As the Director of Government Contract Execution for government sealift contracts, he was responsible for ensuring global compliance and effective global operations. He later joined Maersk Line’s regional brand SeaLand, re-launched in 2013, where he served in a Trade Management role overseeing the Caribbean and Central American trade routes.
“It was a great experience that allowed me to expand my network of global carriers and the overall knowledge of the east-west and regional networks,” he said.
Interestingly enough, just two hours after signing the agreement to relocate back to South Florida for the re-launch of SeaLand, Rick Murrell called DiPietropolo to gauge his interest in returning “home” to Tropical.
“Wow – what timing,” he laughed. “As a man of my word, I stuck with the plan and made the move to SeaLand where I had an amazing time starting up their Americas brand with a group of incredibly talented individuals. Some may say it would have been good if I never had to leave Tropical in 2011, but it’s probably one of the best moves I could have made both personally and professionally to expand my knowledge and network of industry leaders. My return to Tropical ultimately worked out in the end and I’m excited to be back on board sharing in moving Tropical forward into the future together with the team and our customers.”
An advocate of change
DiPietropolo returned to Tropical in 2017 and is currently Assistant Vice President overseeing Tropical’s NVOCCs, Global Logistics, and LCL Operations.
“I’ve had quite the journey since my return to Tropical,” he said. “In my current role, I work with our NVOCC teams at Caribtrans, Deluxe, and VI Cargo to seek opportunities to grow their business and develop the strategy for the future. The Global Logistics side is where we partner with industry leaders to offer logistics services from around the world to our Caribbean customers, regardless of whether it’s less than container-load or full container-loads. In addition, I work to support our LCL Warehouses for Tropical in West Palm Beach and Miami where we handle small-package receiving and consolidation services.”
DiPietropolo touts Tropical employees as “incredible” and said his greatest challenge is harnessing his big dreams until they can become a reality at the right time.
“I am an advocate of change,” he said. “I love to continually move things forward in order to improve our business and improve how we perform many of the functions that we do in order to provide a superior customer experience. I also enjoy sharing how exciting our industry and the Caribbean region is with the next generation and take time to encourage them to consider logistics as a career.”
Military Sealift Command
DiPietropolo has been married to his wife, Cristina, for 17 years.
“My career would not be what it is today without the support of my wife for so many years – and so many moves” he explained. “Eight moves in our first 12 years of marriage says a lot, and it is just one of the many sacrifices she has made for my career both at Tropical and in uniform.”
In addition to his family, DiPietropolo said he’s most proud of his service in the U.S. Navy Reserves.
“As a Commander, my current role is with Military Sealift Command in Norfolk, Virginia, and most recently I served with U.S. Southern Command Headquarters in Doral, Florida and the Joint Chiefs of Staff Logistics Directorate in Washington, D.C. I am blessed that Tropical has been so supportive of my military service over the years, including a mobilization to the Middle East for a year. I am very proud to say that Tropical was selected as one of America’s Outstanding Navy Reserve Employers for 2018 by Vice Admiral McCollum, Chief of Navy Reserve.”
Enhancements, improvements, and growth ‘by leaps and bounds’
In the years to come, DiPietropolo said, service enhancements will bring even faster shipping services for online shoppers in the Bahamas and Caribbean, all with the help of new warehouse technologies to include autonomous mobile robots and other technology solutions.
“During the next five to ten years, we will see quite a bit of change at Tropical,” he concluded. “We’ll continue to see enhancements in our service delivery to ensure we are providing a continuously improving and streamlined customer experience. Improvements in technology and keeping in tune with the latest industry changes will ensure we are cutting edge in today’s rapidly competitive global market. It is inspiring for me to be part of an organization that empowers employees to have a voice and share their ideas for the future. We are seeing this grow by leaps and bounds recently in our Continuous Improvement Projects where future leaders within the organization are being innovative and generating amazing ideas and new perspectives. It’s an exciting time.”