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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

European Seaport Tours Prove Valuable to Business Students and Faculty

Old Dominion University's proximity to one of the largest ports on the U.S. East Coast, and the world's largest naval base, gives the school a giant research laboratory on its doorstep in Norfolk, Va. The university is ranked eighth in the world in port research by the International Association of Marine Economists (IAME).

But that expertise doesn't occur in a vacuum, and earlier this summer, a group of 17 faculty members and students from ODU's College of Business and Public Administration (CBPA) took part in a European port fact-finding tour.

The delegation from Old Dominion visited the Port of Antwerp and the Port of Rotterdam, two of Europe's largest seaports.

"Our strategic location does give us numerous case study examples to discuss, as well as visit -from warehousing and distribution centers to terminal operations," said Sara Russell, lecturer in maritime and supply chain management in the CBPA, who helped lead the tour.

"However, visiting the European seaports not only gives the students additional examples of port facilities, but more importantly examples of technology that European ports have adopted that we have yet to use in our U.S. facilities, including automatic guided vehicles."

The sheer size and logistical scope of the overseas operations dwarfs that at comparable facilities in the United States. Russell said students were able to see products as diverse as bananas and plastic pellets incorporated into the port infrastructures.

Kelly Rider, a CBPA MBA graduate from Austin, Tex., took part in the tour, and was struck by the sheer size of the European ports.

"The miles upon miles of ports in Europe really dwarfs the ports we have here in Hampton Roads," Rider said. "Visiting the various maritime sites and talking with industry professionals opened my eyes to the number of career options available within the industry. This was a great experience for someone like me who will soon be starting down my career path."

In addition to the two ports, the ODU delegation visited IHC Dredgers, an engineering firm that constructs dredging vessels, and Maersk, the world's largest shipping line, in Copenhagen. They also attended a lecture by Willy de Decker of the Short Sea Promotion Center of Flanders.

The tour is done annually, and Russell said it has helped form lasting partnerships that benefit both students and faculty.

"Our relationship with Maersk has grown and our supply chain professors regularly work with Maersk Line Ltd. here in Norfolk regarding purchasing operations," she said.

Previous trips also laid the groundwork for a visit to ODU this past winter by Patrick Verhoeven, secretary general of the European Sea Ports Organization, where he discussed European seaport operations and organization in the midst of the European financial crisis, Russell said.

The annual ODU tour is sponsored by the university's Maritime Institute and partially funded by grant from the European Union.

This year's program was done in tandem with an ODU delegation from the College of Arts and Letters. Regina Karp, director of the university's Graduate Program in International Studies, led another group of students to Europe at the same time. Both groups began their tours in Brussels with a focus on EU policy design. The international studies students visited the EU Parliament, and the Maritime and Supply Chain Management students visited the European Sea Ports Organization.

Russell said students who have participated in the program have gone on to work for such firms and operations as the Port of Virginia, Conway Trucking, the Port of San Diego, Damco (the logistics arm of Maersk) and Zim Lines.

The world port research ranking for ODU was announced at the IAME Annual Conference in Chile in October 2011. Old Dominion was the highest-ranked institution on the U.S. East Coast for port research. The university is bidding to host the conference in Norfolk in 2013.

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