Semper Gumby

At Patriot Rail & Ports, we value flexibility, and our Portus operations team at the Blount Island Maritime Terminal demonstrates this foundational trait daily in how they handle any type of cargo that comes their way.

At Patriot, we go to great lengths to ensure that everyone at the terminal is cross-trained to their maximum potential. The ability to wear multiple hats encourages each team member to have the largest singular impact they can within a workday. Technical expertise flourishes and downtime is reduced. By working smarter and harder, cargo has the best chance of moving through the terminal efficiently.

“Always Flexible”

Jesse Paulson, United States Marine Corps veteran and Portus Operations Manager, has a term for this flexibility that he brought with him from the service – “Semper Gumby.”

“It’s kind of a play on Semper Fidelis, which is the Marine Corps motto of ‘always faithful.’ Semper Gumby means ‘always flexible,’” Paulson explained.

For those unfamiliar with this phrase, Gumby is a clay animation character with roots tracing all the way back to the Howdy Doody Show in the 1950s and enjoyed a revival in popularity in the 1980s. Because he was made of clay, he could be bent and shaped in any direction.

“It’s just so important,” Jesse continues. “Especially since we’re so multimodal here. Cargo will go from coming in on tractor-trailers and trucks to coming in on ship or by rail. We load and offload trucks, ships, and rail regularly.”

Cross-Training Is Crucial

Each mode of transportation requires a different skillset. Cross-training is the only way we can fully utilize our whole team across each mode of transportation. Being flexible is just as crucial as being capable. 

“We do such a wide variety of things,” says Paulson, “and we have the equipment, tools, and know-how. The depth on our employee roster and all the different things they’ve done over the years gives us a lot of experience that we can bring to the table. Our personnel cover so many different possible jobs that we can solve any problem a customer could possibly have.”

Header Addison Powell knows the value of a versatile, cross-trained team as well.

“We try to cross-train everyone to be able to move to different jobs because the way this industry is set up, needs can change really quickly,” Powell says. “It makes it easy on me if I can tell one of my guys, ‘you may be doing this for the next minute, but then I’m going to need you somewhere else.’ If I know they are comfortable in any job, then I know I can’t put them in a bad situation.” Powell, who wears many hats himself, including header, shop steward for the union, and lineman, knows that flexibility is what makes his team so valuable.

The Best Of The Best

“That’s what makes us the best of the best when it comes to the waterfront because we do it with fewer people. With less, we do more because we are so highly cross-trained and versatile.”

Being nimble enables terminal services and stevedoring teams to service our customers skillfully and efficiently. They can operate with confidence, knowing they have the knowledge and resources to solve any challenge that may come their way. It’s a commitment to always do whatever needs to be done for our customers. It’s an unspoken mindset – Semper Gumby.

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