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Oceanexs new boss started out as a ships steward at 15


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Capt. Sid Hynes is the new CEO of Oceanex.

ST. JOHN'S - A year ago, Capt. Sid Hynes and his wife, Bernice, were getting ready to retire to a home they built a few years earlier on the shores of Conception Harbour.

But Hynes wasn't ready for retirement after 35 years in the marine shipping, transportation, and oil and gas sectors as both a sea captain and businessman.

And unlike his wife, a retired nurse who enjoys gardening, Hynes had no hobbies to occupy his free time.

"I was bored … it was too quiet," he said.

Earlier this month, the 52-year-old Hynes solved the problem when he closed a deal worth about $230 million to buy the container shipping company Oceanex and take it private.

"My focus is to make it more of an Eastern Canada transportation company, not just a shipping company, but to get into other avenues of transportation and to expand on what we have."

So far, he has three container ships, four terminals, more than 400 employees and a plenty of customers moving cargo to move to Newfoundland.

Hynes got interested in Oceanex last winter when he was looking for new business ventures.

At the time, the container shipping company was looking for a new CEO. Hynes met with the Oceanex board of directors, but decided heading up a publicly traded company wasn't for him.

By March, he had another idea: "Put together a deal to buy it."

Eventually, he hired financial advisors and lawyers in Toronto and tracked down financial backers in OPTrust Private Markets Group and Terrma Capital.

"What I learned about that is people don't invest money in money; they invest money in people," said Hynes.

"In less than a week, we had an understanding that we were going to do this together."

By June they pitched an offer to Oceanex, and on Nov. 2 the company's shareholders approved the deal.

Hynes figures Oceanex will keep him busy for another 10-15 years, and he likens running a company to skippering a ship.

"On a ship, you're managing everything. … It's a 24-7 operation. It's not an eight to five and everybody goes home.

A native of Harbour Breton, Hynes went to sea when he graduated from high school at age 15.

"I went to sea as an assistant steward with Marine Atlantic … then, I transferred to the deck and went on from there."

He was a second mate working on the P.E.I. ferry service by the summer of 1975, when he left Marine Atlantic. (Hynes would later become chairman of Marine Atlantic for four years starting in 2000.)

At 21, he was captain of his first ship, Federal 6, a 180-foot offshore supply ship owned by Fednav Ltd.

Hynes "came ashore" in 1985, following the birth of his son Matthew.

As a surveyor with Transport Canada, he certified ships, drill rigs and crews to work in Canadian waters and conduct safety inspections. He lasted a year.

"I really didn't like that. … government works a different way than I was used to."

In 1986, he partnered with three other businessmen, including Ches Penney, to create Canship Ltd.

Penney has nothing but praise for the sea captain who introduced himself in the early 1980s by buying him a drink in a bar, attaching a business card that read: Capt. Sidney J. Hynes.

"I knew his father, but I didn't know him at the time," said Penney. "That's how our relationship started. He was very sharp.

"We've been business partners and really good friends ever since."

Oceanex is Hynes' first business venture outside his more than two-decade-old partnership with Penney.

"When this Oceanex deal came up, he wanted to go on his own and that was fine with me," said Penney. "He's the best man for that job, and he knows that business inside out. He'll do very well."

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