Johan Eriksson joined us at Port of Uddevalla as Technical Manager in 2005. Over the past 16 years he has contributed to keep our port up to date, for both for the present and for the future. Now time has come for him to retire. But before he begins the next chapter in life, he finished a project at Sörvik. The very same place where his career began.
Johan was born and raised here in Uddevalla and it is also where here he lives and have had a long career in construction, civil engineering and with us in the port. He started his career from scratch when he during high school worked extra as a stick boy, ie. was the one who assisted the measurement technician when the distance was to be measured at different construction sites. Johan studied Construction Engineering at Östrabogymnasiet and barely had time to complete high school before he was called in to the military.
- A month before graduation I was called in to start my education to be a platoon commander. I was lucky enough, as I got my final grades. That's how it was with the military at that time, it was more important than anything else. Says Johan.
He finished his year the military in the autumn of 1977 and started working at Uddevalla Municipality`s Traffic Department. This was where he had been working during high school and now he got the opportunity for another job, first as a ground worker and later as a foreman. During the two years Johan worked here he was involved in laying the pipes under Kungsgatan and helped to supply the new residential area at Helenedal with streets, water and sewage systems, among other things.
Johan lives with his wife Anne in Uddevalla, in a house they bought in the early eighties. Together they have three now grown children, David, Malin and Martin. As soon as the opportunity rises they go on a trip with their leisure boat, wich is also their big common interest:
- My parents had a boat when I was a child and I always thought it was great fun. My wish, of course, was for Anne to share this interest with me. And I have been lucky, because after carefully introducing boating to her, it is now our common interest. We bought our first boat, of 8 meters, in 1985. The boat we have now is larger, a motor cruiser of 11 meters. If you want to follow us on the AIS her name is Johanne! Says Johan
Johan believes that boating has always functioned as a good valve for a more hectic working life. Very often they go out to the beautiful Koster archipelago. Even if they sometimes go further out in the archipelagic as well, they almost always choose relaxation over traveling far.
After two years at the Traffic Department, Johan started working at Svenska Väg AB, today better known as NCC. During the almost 10 years that he worked at NCC, Johan was in various ways involved in a large number of projects in Uddevalla. For example; planning and constructing of the cemetery at Sigelhult, building condominiums at Kvarteret Femkanten, nursing school at Uddevalla hospital, building a motor vehicle inspection, a new platform at Uddevalla Central Station and extending the tracks for the well-known full portal crane who was situated at Uddevalla shipyard. All that work at Sörvik and the shipyard gave him lots of experience:
- You always had to think from a holistic perspective, even if the jobs were sometimes small. The shipyard Uddevallavarvet, I17 and Exxon Mobil were our three largest clients. Sometimes I could be site manager for up to 20 different small jobs out on Sörvik at the same time. After a while I probably had a better view of the drawings than the customer himself. It gave me the basis for the knowledge I have about Sörvik today. By the way, the work of extending the portal crane´s tracks continued all the way until it was demolished. When the tracks were previously extended, it had not gone so well as the crane had sunk into the ground afterwards. So, when I got there to extend the tracks by another 70 meters, I was told that the shipyard workers were betting on how much it would sink this time. But no one won that bet, because the crane never sunk again! Johan says and smiles.
At lot of the work at NCC was also done along the coast, around the area of Tanum and Grebbestad. This meant many miles back and forth and as a supervisor you always had to be first in place to open and the last person to lock and leave.
- I often had to go on an extra turn with a trailer after working hours, to pick up all the material we would need the next day. Because at that time, there was nowhere up there to procure it. There were many early mornings and late evenings. My children were small at this time and eventually it became unsustainable to work that way. It was then I chose to apply to return to work at Uddevalla Municipality.
Johan took a job as a Constructional Engineer and section manager at Uddevalla Municipality's Property Management Department, which is now part of the Urban Planning and Infrastructure Department. Here he worked with no less than 44 new constructions and conversions of various buildings, many of which are schools and preschools in Uddevalla. Among other things, the new construction / rebuilding of Hovhultskolan, Sandersdalsskolan and Österängen's nursing home as well as rebuilding the City Hall and Dalaberg's center building. Johan's role in the various projects varied a lot, in larger projects he was often a representative of the owner. That meant that he was involved in influencing the design and made sure that the various parts harmonized and that technical solutions were connected. Sometimes he was the project manager, then he instead led the designers and worked as a construction manager on site.
- The most important experience I take with me from the municipality is to really think about how to build, for something to last for a long time. At NCC, the projects were often not seen after final inspection and warranty inspection a year later. At the municipality, maintenance of existing properties was my biggest area of work. I got to see what consequences various construction methods and materials had for the building's service life and future maintenance needs. It is important to think long-term and it is usually the small, small changes in new production that have major consequences later in the building's or facility's total cost and service life. That so little can affect so much, was an incredible aha experience for me! I'm glad I got it, it was so interesting to think completely differently from my previous experience. For me, it is also something that gives me joy in the everyday job, to find the small things that extends the durability. It can be anything; from how to best lay a carpet in a corridor or how asphalt a quay area so that it will last longer.
Johan says that this is where he also gained the insight into how important it is to engage people to get good results. He tells us an example from when it was experienced that it was difficult and cumbersome to get the caretakers to do maintenance according to planning in the municipality. He realized that the work was organized so that every day the caretakers were told how and what to do and that they themselves had no influence over their own working day. By instead highlighting the caretakers as responsible for the building where they worked and giving them the power over their own working day, they got completely different results. All of a sudden it was easy and the work flowed in a completely different way than it had before.
One day in the canteen Johan heard by chance that Kenneth Hansson, the then Technical Manager at Port of Uddevalla, would leave his job. Johan quickly got in touch with him to see if the job was still vacant:
- And yes, it was. However I had to send in my application no later than Monday morning, because after that the time would run out. I knew Kenneth from before, as I had done some work for the port, and he seemed to have a good place to work. There was never any doubt that I would apply.
That is how Johan ended up with us at Port of Uddevalla. He describes that, even though he already knew a lot about the port operations, in the beginning it was difficult to keep track of all the crane, machine and work numbers. There were also lots of nicknames to remember. He also experienced that the climate was quite harsh here at first:
- In the beginning, the jargon was quite harsh here. Being the captain of a vessel is many times more like being in the military than being an actual leader. I don´t believe that you have to be military to lead, working with teams has always been more my way of thinking. If you create a commitment in people, you can get 110% from them instead of maybe 30-40%, which is what you get in the military. The key to keeping up with all the various roles I have had here is to have talented employees. It is important to let people think and come up with their own solutions, we have many inventors with us in the port. It is important as a manager to dare to be curious and interested instead of controlling and trusting and believe that people can and wants to do their job!
Johan has been well-liked as both colleague and manager with us and many times it is probably his leadership that has been the key to success, just as he says. Johan has been involved in a large number of significant projects for the city of Uddevalla throughout his career, as an engineer or as a manager. In his role as Technical Manager with us, he has also participated and project-led a large number of projects, who are and were important for the port's present and future.
Throughout his entire working life, even long before Johan started working with us, Sörvik has been a companion of his. From NCC to Uddevalla municipality, to the first project with us and all the way to the very last. Rebuilding Sörviks quay, from shipyard to a quay fit for port operations, was the first project for Johan as Technical Manager with us. A lot has happened in the port since then and perhaps especially at Sörvik. Sörvik has actually changed almost completely during the 16 years that Johan has worked with us. From consisting of mostly "forest and rubbish", to becoming our main focus and in many ways the port´s lifeline. You here will find plenty of warehouses filled with paper, pulp and bigbags and also large storage areas full of wind turbine parts, among other things.
It turned out that the last major project for Johan happened to be to rebuild the quay at Sörvik once again. This time the rebuild was made to make sure that the quay will cope with the load of our new and heavy machinery and port cranes, for a long time to come. Johan was responsible for projecting, project manager, customer representative, quality and environmental manager and also control manager. It is this versatile role that he has had in most of our projects;
- It has been so much fun for me to always be involved in so many different things here. In other industries, you usually have your specific role and often must not exceed that limit. I always have had a wide work area here and I have discovered that it is something that suits me well. In previous roles, I have always had the precise knowledge on how to do everything. It has been more of a challenge to get to know all the different parts here. My curiosity has helped me and has been both a good ability and a driving force, for me to find new ways to develop and understand the whole. I have always enjoyed coming here and the days have always felt short. Johan says.
Other projects that Johan has been responsible for with us include; construction of storm water systems at Sörvik, rebuilding of the quay at Fröland, new reservoirs and warehouses, the establishment of Clariant at Fröland and Thomas Cement's silo at Skeppsholmspiren. Johan says that he is especially proud of the warehouses, number 80, 77 and 78. These warehouses are also the reason that he studied to become an Inspection manager. When it comes to the establishments for Clariant and Thomas Cement, Johan believes that the biggest lesson learned has been how important it is to be involved throughout the whole journey:
- We had the experience of Clariant's establishment fresh in our minds, at the establishment of Thomas Cement. We had learned how important it is that the port is fully committed and works with the customer throughout the whole process. The result was fantastic and these lessons are important that we bring with us in future establishments in the ports area.
One of the later projects where Johan has been involved was when we carried out the procurement and the purchase of our two new port cranes, a rail-mounted crane from Gottwald/Konecranes and a knuckle boom crane from Mantsinen. We handled the procurements by ourselves, which was a process that involved large parts of the personnel. When another crane suddenly broke down, these cranes would prove to be absolutely crucial for our continued customer flow. It was a great advantage that we had been out in good time.
In January 2019, Johan got a feeling that something was wrong. It would turn out that Johan had got lung cancer. He went through a surgery in May that same year, to remove a part of his lung. When scans showed that the cancer had spread, the operation was followed by a tough period of chemotherapy. Today Johan has recovered and is feeling well, even though he still undergoes frequent check-ups. The period of illness has made Johan re-prioritize in his life and he chose to quit as Technical Manager and thereby relinquish personnel responsibilities. That role was handed over, with a warm hand, to Anders Moberg last year. Johan has instead lately focused on being a project manager full time and is now retiring a little bit earlier than he planned:
- I always had an idea that I would try to retire earlier when I was young, to simply catch up on time. However I do not think I would have actually done it if I had not become ill. Anne is also retired, so now we will have a lot of time to spend together. None of the children live in Uddevalla so we would like to see them more and we also dream of having time for one or two holidays by car, apart from the boat.
Johan believes that we at Port of Uddevalla have a great advantage in that we have a management that is interested and committed. It permeates our entire business and helps us dare to try new things. He urges us to continue to have the courage to not only do as we always have done. It is also important to continue working on getting people involved and thus increase their commitment, Johan concludes.
Now it´s time for Johan and his boat Johanne to set sail from Port of Uddevalla and into the archipelago with its natural harbors at full time. He might show up in some context to help us with a well-chosen project in the future, if we are lucky. Until then we would like to say; A warm thank you from us at Port of Uddevalla for everything you have done for us and the port, we wish you a wonderful time as a pensioner!