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Kerry Costello

Rewriting Women into Maritime History

This article was written for the Rewriting Women into Maritime inititative by Pressiana Naydenova, Corporate Communications Manager, at Associated British Ports.


Kerry Costello

Senior Safety and Compliance Manager 

Kerry Costello is currently Senior Safety and Compliance Manager at Associated British Ports (ABP), the UK’s leading ports operator. Handing 27% of all UK port volumes, ABP is the UK’s number one ports operator, supporting 166,000 jobs nationally. Kerry first joined the business in 2019 as Humber Service Delivery Manager looking after ABP’s tenants and customers throughout the Humber. However, she soon realised she missed the fast pace of operations as she had worked offshore in the oil and gas Industry for 10 years as a Chemical Engineer. When the post of Terminal Manager at Hull Container Terminal (HCT) came up she applied and was successful. Kerry has a Bachelors in Forensic Science, and a Master in Analytical Chemistry along with NEBOSH and Sustainability Diplomas. The safety and sustainability qualifications have helped her in looking at improvements on the terminal and the wider business. Below we look at some of the lessons she’s learnt in the role.  


Cover photo - Kerry Costello

Kerry Costello, © Image Courtesy of Associated British Ports 

What attracted you to the maritime industry originally?  
I have always found more challenging and fast-paced industries fascinating, and the maritime sector is very multidimensional. There are so many opportunities to learn from others and guide from personal experience, I have also never been one for sitting back and relaxing, I am always up for a challenge and to be honest probably work at my best when there is one. Funnily enough, my husband has worked in the maritime industry for 33 years and I always loved hearing about his experience. Being seconded into my current safety role feels a little bit like coming home as I started with ABP, working closely with the compliance team. I truly believe having the operational knowledge as well as the safety knowledge can only enhance the team and make our working environment even safer. 
Can you tell us a little bit more about your career before ABP and what skills you learned that you were able to transfer to the ports sector?  
I started my career in a very female-orientated industry, as an air hostess, but whilst I loved the role and working with people, I felt like I needed more of a challenge. That is when I went to university and completed an BSc Forensic Science and an MSc in Analytical Chemistry, before commencing my role in the Oil and Gas industry. I was one of the first females to work offshore for the company I was employed by. Travelling to weird and wonderful places such as Congo, Angola, China, Indonesia and the North Sea. The offshore industry is very traditional and you quickly learn how to fit in. For me it’s never been about getting others to do it for me, it’s always been about me being hands on and getting the job done to the best of my ability. Having worked offshore for 8 years, I transitioned in to the role of safety manager for the company who were an upper tier COMAH facility. I found having worked offshore safety came as second nature. I relocated to the Humber in 2018 as Group Safety Specialist for Inter terminals looking after their 21 terminals all of which again were upper tier COMAH. I believe that because I have worked across different industries, across various cultures, I have developed the right skills to relate to people and get the best out of the team.  
Thinking about your role at the Hull Container Terminal – what aspects did you find most enjoyable on a day to day basis?  
I think going into the container terminal job, I needed to learn a new operation and one I had not been involved in before, which was a little daunting at first. The team had never had a female manager but quickly realised that we could work together effectively. I think they found it refreshing to be able to have open and honest conversations with someone who looks at things in a different manner and challenges the old ‘we’ve always done it like this’ way. We recruited females into the operation and ensured they had facilities the same as the men and were treated no differently to anyone else. I believe that’s the key thing we all want - to be treated the same whether male or female. I really enjoyed my time at HCT and loved the fast pace of operations. I think as I am quite a calm person this helps in stressful situations as the team feed off this energy. I believe communication is also key, the ability to just sit and have a coffee and catch up with the operators meant a lot to them and me, getting to know them and their interests hopefully shows them we are engaged and care about them. 
What were some of the biggest challenges you have faced in your career so far and how have you overcome them?  
In all honesty to start with offshore - it was getting the operatives to understand I knew my trade and how to get things done without the need to constantly ask for help. When you work offshore for 6 weeks though, the team quickly become family and we learn how to work together.  
What advice would you give to people wanting to pursue a career in maritime?  
Do it. I have loved every minute of it, challenges and all. There are so many women coming into the industry now, which means it’s a great time to join. The majority of women bring a great mix of expertise and people skills to their roles, as we often find it easier to communicate openly.  

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