Ships ahoy!

Ships ahoy!

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Contributors:

Joey Fitzpatrick

There’s a story about Isaac Harry Mathers, founder of I. H. Mathers, standing atop Citadel Hill with a telescope, watching for approaching vessels. Upon seeing a promising ship he would row out to greet the captain and offer his services to meet whatever needs the ship might have while in port.

While the role and marketing techniques of the ship’s agent has been refined over the last 147 years, the essence remains the same — meeting the requirements of the marine and offshore industry.

“The company started as a ship’s agency and it’s still a ship’s agency,” says I. H. Mathers CEO, Brian Lane. “Obviously our service offerings have greatly expanded over the years.”

A ship has any number of requirements while in port, from tugboats to fuel and supplies, repairs, spare parts and cargo to be loaded and unloaded. The job of the ship’s agent is to arrange for those requirements to be met.

“A good ship agent will begin to take note of the most in-demand services and then set up his own companies to provide those services,” Lane points out.

Over the years I. H. Mathers has expanded its offerings to include offshore logistics, freight forwarding, customs brokerage, custom warehousing, offshore personnel and even immigration consulting. All of these sectors now form important components of the company’s business.

“We describe ourselves as a fully integrated marine, offshore and logistics services business,” Lane says. “We have clients that require a single service and we have clients that require everything from our specialty warehouse service to customs brokerage. It can be as simple or as complex as required and on some of these significant offshore projects the requirements can be very sophisticated.”

I. H. Mathers has a specialized logistical facility in the Burnside industrial park. The company’s expertise in freight forwarding allows it to move merchandise and equipment from Halifax to Truro or from Singapore to London, England.

“We are part of a worldwide network and we can physically move almost
anything from point A to point B,”
Lane explains. “We have the connections with the transport companies and shipping lines to move any type of specialty freight, on time and intact.”

Custom brokerage is an area of expertise relating to the customs and excise rules in various countries. These experts know what the potential duties are and which items are exempt, when moving items from one country to another.

“Freight forwarding and customs brokerage are joined at the hip,” Lane explains. “Our clients can take comfort in knowing that the freight forwarder is talking to the customs broker in the next chair and is also talking to the specialty warehousing person who could be receiving and repackaging the shipment on their behalf.”

Another area of specialty for I. H. Mathers is immigration consulting, in which they facilitate temporary work permits for employees in various sectors.

“We have certified immigration consultants in-house who support companies that have specialty workers coming into the country on a temporary basis.”

Some of the major projects serviced by I. H. Mathers include the Sable and Deep Panuke offshore energy projects, both of which are currently winding down. This is driving diversification into new industries like defence and aquaculture logistics.

I. H. Mathers has comprehensive programs in both quality assurance and health and safety, which conform with the industry requirements of its clients.

“Oil and gas in particular has very high standards on the health and safety front,” Lane explains. “We meet or exceed all of those standards.”

The company is ISO 9001:2015 certified, which is third party audited to ensure that the company is meeting its standards. Staff members are certified in their respective areas.

With its head office in Halifax and a branch office in St. John’s, the company has 40 full-time permanent employees and through its offshore personnel supply company, provides employment for between 60 and 300 in various offshore projects.

“That’s a significant component of our business,” Lane explains. “Those people are employed by us and we make them available to key clients who are working offshore.”

The company is also home to the honourary Danish and Norwegian Consular Offices in Nova Scotia.

I.H. Mathers began in 1872 at the Pickford & Black wharf, now known as Historic Properties and has maintained a daily log through 147 years of history — two world wars, a Great Depression, the Cold War and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The company now spans six generations of the Mathers family. Current president, Harry Isaac Mathers, is the great grandson of the company’s founder and his own son, daughter, grandson and granddaughter also work with the company.

“It’s remarkable for a family business to carry on through all of that time,” Lane says. “And there are exciting prospects for the future.” ν

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