"Life was worth little in the port of Montevideo 27 years ago, before Montecon existed."
The past is always better. Gonzalo Berenguer is capable of refuting this maxim with one sinple sentence: “Life was worth little in the port of Montevideo 27 years ago”, he says, before Montecon existed. When looking back, he recognises the danger he faced in his job at that time. Years later, his life went through the challenge of a hard blow which he managed to get through. All this gives Gonzalo a special perspective, which enables him to live the total security transformation at the port like a flag that he wants to share personally with his peers.
Nearly three decades ago, the view from the port was completely different, and not only due to the cobbled streets, the large warehouses (mostly demolished) and the lack of technology. “We went down into the ships' holds with a lighter in our hand because there was no light. We climbed up onto the containers like monkeys and didn’t even stop if there was a storm”, Gonzalo recalls. He lost the notion of time due to the number of successive days he spent down there without sticking his head out.
The consumption of alcohol and drugs completed the picture. “The veterans ended up getting drunk, and for us youngsters, drinking or smoking was normal. We didn’t realize that under the effect of drugs or alcohol we were vulnerable and likely to have an accident”. The idea of having a conscience in terms of security didn’t exist then as it does today at Montecon. “In fact, the concept of security was totally alien to us. It may sound harsh, but we were ignorant”.
Slowly but firmly, like any process that tries to transform behaviour, certain changes started to happen. The use of a helmet, a hi-viz vest and shoes went from being an option to an obligation, as a way to symbolise prevention. Montecon had a more ambitious plan: to promote a culture of security excellence. And to do so, it was necessary to count upon the collaboration of third party companies that provide different services (cargo, trucks, elevators and the ones that are found in Depo 20).
"We didn’t realize that under the effect of drugs or alcohol we were vulnerable and likely to have an accident."
In pursuit of the same objective, Montecon joined up with the National Development Agency (ANDE) to launch a project that trains its suppliers in safe habits and behaviours. It is a long-term initiative that affects 500 people and foresees various activities, including the setting up of an advanced programme for accident prevention known as Safestart.
In this programme Gonzalo has a leading role, as he was chosen to be trainer or leader, which means he must take what he has learnt about the tool of personal safety and replicate it among third-party employees. “For me, it’s an honour. I sincerely didn’t expect it; there are people that are more qualified than me for this role. But the company and the syndicate prioritized my experience within the different sectors of the port”, he says, as he divides his time between tasks as assistant Gate Operator and Safestart Instructor.
“If there is anything we should be aware of, it’s that every day we are faced with the possibility of having an accident. When we prepare mentally for this, we are going to look after ourselves more. Dangerous situations often happen when we are overconfident. As our job involves routine, we think nothing is going to happen to us, so we forget the risks”, explains the Instructor.
"It is fundamental to be emotionally stable. Not just for ourselves but to be able to look after others."
Overall, the main thing is to look after your health, something Gonzalo is clear about. He hasn’t consumed drugs in ten years and has learnt that being safe means you get a better quality of life. “If you’re under the influence of some kind of substance, you’re more likely to have an accident. We need to look after ourselves at work and outside it, because outside there’s a family waiting for us” he says. He celebrates the commitment the company have made with the Programme for the Prevention of the Consumption of Drugs and other substances.
It’s about feeling good on the inside and the outside: “It is fundamental to be emotionally stable. Not just for ourselves but to be able to look after others. If a colleague is distracted, someone else can give them a shout and save them. We need to look after the truck driver, the stevedore and the person who comes to the port for the first time because they find themselves in an unknown world; and where things are unknown, the situation can get dangerous."
Montecon is the main public-area operator in the Port of Montevideo, not only for containers but also for general freight and freight projects. Its clients enjoy a seamless service that is world class.