OW Spotlight Robin Thomas

Combermere '82

Shipping COG Leader

Tell us about yourself

I left Wellington in 1982 and spent the next 7 years at Southampton University, eventually emerging with a PhD in archaeology. I spent the rest of my career working initially for British Coal Corporation, then for a multi-national firm of ship brokers in the City. I have been working remotely, from my home town in Dorset, since 2015.

What inspired you to work in Shipping?

As UK coal mines were shut during the run-up to British Coal privatisation in 1995, we needed to continue meeting our contractual sales obligations, which meant importing coal from overseas. I was part of a small team responsible for that, and my interest in shipping developed as a result.

How did you get to where you are today?

As a ship broker, key skills are the ability to spot trends in the market and develop them. Sieze opportunities when you see them – there may be no second chance!

What advice would you give to students/young OWs who would like to join the profession?

Hard work, attention to detail and the ability to develop excellent working relationships with colleagues and clients are important in any business, and shipping is no exception.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

My late Father (also an OW) told me when I was young: ‘If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well’. It’s proved very sound advice during my career.

What are your career highlights?

Closing long-term shipping contracts with major Asian electricity companies in 2008-10, 2017 and 2021.

Where do you see yourself in 5/10/20 years?

I am close to retirement, so probably relaxing somewhere writing books!

Do you have a fond memory from your time at Wellington that you would like to share or perhaps a particular teacher that really stood out?

My favourite teacher was Dr Howard Tomlinson, who taught history and inspired my interest in the past, something that has stayed with me ever since.

Thanks to Robin Thomas (C 82) for this spotlight piece.