Marika Calfas

Chief Executive Officer | NSW Ports

  • Change agent
  • Future focused
  • Sustainability advocate
Based in: NSW
Modes: Maritime Freight/logistics
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“Ports are a fantastic area to work. They add value to our society. Their contribution is meaningful and tangible, and I think this holds an enormous attraction for people to join our industry.”

Current positions

  • Chief Executive Officer, NSW Ports
  • Board Member, Infrastructure NSW
  • Deputy Chair, Ports Australia
  • Board Member, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia
  • Director, Australian Logistics Council
  • Advisory Council Member, SMART Infrastructure Facility University of Wollongong
  • Environmental Commission, Australian Representative, PIANC International

Previous positions

  • Executive General Manager – Strategy, Planning & Infrastructure, NSW Ports
  • General Manager Planning, Sydney Ports Corporation
  • Senior Engineer, Waters Resources Group, Sinclair Knight Merz
  • Deputy Chair, Australian Logistics Council
  • Board Member, PIANC Australia

Career snapshot

Marika Calfas is the Chief Executive Officer of NSW Ports, the organisation responsible for managing Port Botany, Port Kembla and the intermodal terminals at Cooks River and Enfield in NSW, Australia.

Marika has over 20 years’ experience in the port sector including in port planning and development.

With a strong belief that ports are crucial to our lives and lifestyles and essential for the nation’s economy, Marika is passionate about driving improvements and efficiencies across port supply chains, informing the wider community and decision makers of the importance and value of ports and identifying new opportunities.

Marika is actively involved in Industry Associations. She is Deputy Chair of Ports Australia, Board Member of Australian Logistics Council and Infrastructure Partnerships Australia and Australia’s representative to PIANC's (International Waterborne Transport Association’s) Environmental Commission.

Marika was appointed by the Commonwealth Minister for Infrastructure & Transport to the Expert Panel advising the Australian Government Inquiry into the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy Priorities in 2017. In 2018 she was appointed by the NSW Premier to the Infrastructure NSW Board and is a member of University of Wollongong SMART Advisory Board.

In 2021, Marika was invited to be part of an Industry Advisory Council established by the Commonwealth Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment for the development of a national Simplified Trade System.

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In her own words

When I took on my first role in ports I didn’t really have an understanding of the importance of ports – probably like many people in the country prior to COVID. I fell into the industry. I simply applied for an interesting sounding role in ports and whilst I didn’t get that job, I was interviewed by a fantastic senior leader in the organisation who liked my background and created a port planning role for me.

Ports are part of a mutli-organisation maritime supply chain network – involving port managers, pilots, stevedores, trucking companies, rail operators etc. Diversity in the industry is not balanced but it’s improved since I entered the industry. There is a focus now by many organisations to try to improve gender representation.

So what has to happen to increase diversity? Cultural change. We must ensure women coming into the industry have a positive experience. Some of that is about having more women in the workforce for support as well as appropriate facilities.

Keep putting your hand up

The beauty of the port and maritime industry is that it is a large sector with diverse activities. There are many roles and facets that you can be involved in and still remain in the industry. There are roles for many different types of skills and people.

I put my hand up to become involved in interesting projects and that is how I got to work on a major infrastructure project literally from end to end. That was the Port Botany Expansion project. The expansion involved 60 ha of reclamation and eight million cubic metres of dredging. It was challenging from an approvals, government and community engagement point of view. From when I first became involved it took four years to get the development approvals. When it went to a design and construct tender process, I again asked to be part of that team. I then asked to be involved in the delivery phase, spending time onsite with the team delivering the project. I was also involved with the review of the tenders for the operator of the development. Now I am the CEO of the business that overseas that land. I don’t think many people get an opportunity to do that in their career.

Value the valuable

It takes a long time to understand the many parts of port and maritime supply chains and its operation. I have been in the industry for 20 years and I am still constantly learning about different parts of the industry. COVID exposed me to even more detailed aspects of port operations.

When I came into the industry, I would sit in the lunch room alongside men who had had long careers in the ports sector and ask them heaps of questions and listen to their experiences. A lot of the things they told me are not written down in a manual or on a drawing. I learnt a lot of the history and their experiences, it was fascinating and helped me develop my understanding and career. The skills and knowledge of people who have been in the industry for a long time are absolutely invaluable in training people, and I experienced that first-hand.

My vision for the next 5 years is...

…for the port and maritime industry to continue to be understood and valued by government and the public, long after the COVID experience has faded so that the current focus on resilience, investment, technology improvements and national coordination continues to put us in good stead for the next challenge. The exposure of the maritime industry during COVID will hopefully make more people – including women – realise how important and interesting the sector is and want to be part of it.

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