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Valerie Cordemans

Operations Services Manager

Fednav Group
Montreal, Quebec
26 years in the industry

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Few jobs present the opportunity to work with people from all parts of the world. But when working for an international shipping company like Montreal-based Fednav Group, it is a daily occurrence. Valerie Cordemans, the company’s operations services manager, says this international focus makes her job both rewarding and challenging.

“You must be able to deal with people from different nationalities and cultures, which is extremely interesting,” she says. “Sometimes that means you have to adapt your business manner. It also means that you have to be really clear about how you communicate to make sure there are no misunderstandings due to cultural or language differences.”

Cordemans, 45, oversees a team of eight employees who handle a variety of tasks, including ensuring that port custom clearances are in order, calculating the financial implications of any extra time a ship is in port, and certifying that in-port charges are billed correctly by the local agents. “For most of these tasks, you have to read every contract that is signed for every cargo we carry, and understand the legal interpretation of it. You need to have quite a lot of knowledge about the business,” she explains.

Cordemans grew up in Antwerp, Belgium – home to one of the largest seaports in Europe. She attended Nautical University after meeting a female Captain on a school trip to the port. Part of her training included five years at sea. But working as one of a small number of female sailors in international shipping at the time wasn’t always easy.

“People weren’t always used to having a woman on board. You had to prove yourself 200 percent of the time,” she remembers. Cordemans worked her way up the ranks to second officer, but eventually headed back ashore to continue learning about the industry.

After a variety of portside jobs, she moved to Montreal to work for Fednav as Fleet Operator – planning every aspect of a ship’s journey as it transports cargo around the globe. After 14 years at Fednav, the mother of two still gets a kick out of the challenges the ocean throws at her.

“It’s a balance between nature – because the ocean is still the boss – and using that natural environment to do business,” she explains. “The weather or something else can change everything in an instant and you have to react quickly. It’s a fascinating business.”