Steve Williams, 60, from Grimsby in Lincolnshire, has celebrated the MBE he was awarded in the Queen’s Covid-19 honours for outstanding services during the pandemic, at a royal garden party attended by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall.
From the outset, when the government announced a lockdown, Portico’s managing director Steve Williams, made the decision to stay in Portsmouth and oversee operations at the UK’s major fresh produce port, 200 miles away from his family in Grimsby, Lincolnshire.
He remained solely in Portsmouth for three months, so he could manage operations safely for his employees and be available to provide hands on support.
Portico remained open 24/7, a vital function managing essential supplies to make sure fresh produce reached supermarket shelves. During a heighted time of public anxiety in response to stock available in shops, Steve made sure he had a functioning workforce to manage the regular arrivals of thousands of pallets and containers of goods.
This was not without difficulty. A number of staff, in critical roles, were absent due to Covid-19 and Steve had to make sure Portico could still function.
One serious issue was crane driver cover, as this is a highly specialised role and critical to the unloading ships. Fortunately Steve had experience in this area, having previously operated a crane.
To help make sure this essential role could continue, Steve took a refresher course so he was able to step into the cab once again and make sure supplies keep moving.
Following approval from an instructor, Steve passed his competency test and was fully certified to drive cranes once again.
Steve chose the option of the garden party on the 11 May 2022 to celebrate his honour, and was accompanied by his wife Mandy and port director of Portsmouth International Port, Mike Sellers.
Mike said: “Steve would be too modest to discuss any of his efforts, praising his management team and also staff for all stepping up. However it’s because he led by example that everyone at Portico was inspired to continue working hard.
“Steve stepped into a range of positions, helping in warehouses and unloading ships, clocking up long hours and visiting the site daily to help staff morale.
“If that wasn’t tough enough, it was against the backdrop of being away from his family, especially his wife who was alone in Lincolnshire.
“I want to thank Steve for the selfless part he played making sure vital goods kept moving to where they were needed most, and also for inviting me to accompany him the royal garden party”.
Steve Williams, Portico operations director said: “I am very humbled and proud. I have spent over 34 years in the industry, supported throughout by my beautiful wife who was by my side at the garden party, so this honour is recognition for us both.
“No honour would be received without the support of your co-workers, and I am proud that the industry is recognised as key workers, supporting the country through these very difficult times.
“Although it was a difficult decision to remain in Portsmouth, away from my family with no end date, being on site at Portico was my duty. It was a privilege to support the team in any way I could help, for as long as it was needed.”
Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Leader of Portsmouth City Council added: “Steve worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic, including weekends.
“On top of all this and throughout the crisis period Steve was away from his family, who were in Lincolnshire when the lockdown was announced. This must have been particularly hard on him mentally but he has continued giving 100% to his role and responsibilities.
“Steve has gone above and beyond his responsibilities and I’m delighted that he has been able to celebrate his award.”
Steve has over 30+ years in the shipping industry which has resulted in senior positions in Immingham and now as managing director at Portico, Portsmouth’s international cargo terminal.