Doug Hackett talks with his hands. They hover, swoop and twist above a boardroom table in the offices of Squamish Terminals Ltd., where he works as manager of information systems and administration. Seldom, though, do they wander up to his face, where they might find anchorage on his glasses or a perch on his chin. Unlike many hand-talkers, Hackett seems neither nervous nor exuberant. Rather, he has a head for detail, and his busy hands call to mind those of a file clerk calmly and quickly thumbing through dossiers in search of the right information.
Hackett has been with Squamish Terminals since 1996. Previous to that, he worked at Blackcomb, also with computers. In the latter situation, he came armed first with computer knowledge, and then immersed himself in the world of tourism and mountain recreation. He brought that same thirst to the terminal, and now he’s something of an authority on the shipping industry.
“I came because of the computer systems,” he says. “I get hired because I understand computers, and then I get to learn about the rest of the industry, which I really enjoy.”
No doubt Hackett’s adaptability stems from his childhood. While his parents hail from B.C., Hackett was born in Paris. A self-proclaimed military brat, he spent a good deal of his formative years moving from one place to the next, a lifestyle in part defined by the constant absorption of new people and systems.
Thanks to its location in the Squamish Estuary, few people are fully aware of the terminal’s existence. Kiteboarders, who congregate all summer on the wind-swept Spit, know it well; the two interests have worked out at a deal to share the waters dividing their respective land bases. Local environmentalists are also in the know, as the estuary is sacred to their philosophy, and the presence of industry rankles them. But, for the most part, the terminal does its thing outside the public consciousness.
And it’s been doing that thing for quite some time. Built in 1972, Squamish Terminals is owned by a Norwegian company called Star Shipping. It began as just a solitary berth and one warehouse at the head of Howe Sound. Over the years, it’s grown to include two more storage buildings and another berth. These days, the terminal handles some 750,000 metric tons of product each year, all of that shipped in and out of Howe Sound aboard approximately 100 vessels. At times, there can be 160 people working on site — it all depends on how much freight arrives on a given day.
“We’re a pretty small terminal,” Hackett admits.