Robert Palaima, a Globally Respected Leader in the Philadelphia Port Community, Announces Retirement

Robert PalaimaJune 7, 2021 - Truly a man for all seasons, Robert Palaima is retiring after 31 years with Delaware River Stevedores (DRS). In a career that spanned 44 years, Palaima has been successful as a manager, supply chain expert, negotiator, diplomat, non-profit leader, port spokesman and other roles. He led DRS’s marine terminal operations in Philadelphia, Camden, and Wilmington.

Among his many accomplishments, Palaima was a key player in growing important commodities for the Port, including forest products, steel, project cargoes, autos and containers. He helped bring generational change to PhilaPort’s Tioga Marine Terminal (TMT) with the advent of a long-term contract for eucalyptus wood-pulp from Brazil.

“Bob is respected by shippers and supply chain professionals all over the world. He has been a great stevedore and marine terminal operator, and an ally in promoting the Port. It’s been a real pleasure working with Bob, who was always passionate about the Philadelphia region and our ports,” stated PhilaPort’s CEO Jeff Theobald.

As President of DRS, he engineered a major reorganization in 1992 and led the company through the ever-changing complexities of international trade and significant changes in the TMT’s cargo mix. He also worked in cooperation with PhilaPort to bring about successful infrastructure improvements at TMT.

“I’m humbled to have worked with a true leader, a true friend of labor like Bob,” said Boise Butler, President of International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) Local 1291. “He worked hard to bring more cargo – and more jobs – to Philadelphia. You could always trust Bob, at the Port and in his work for the community.”

His work in all three states sharing the Delaware River gave him a regional perspective, one he used to build cooperation among the entire port community. He has used this collaborative approach to the benefit of many civic and maritime organizations:  Palaima serves on the Board of Governors of the Philadelphia Maritime Society, the Board of Managers of the Seamen’s Church Institute, and the Executive Committee of the Philadelphia Marine Trade Association. He served on Liberty Mutual’s PA Advisory Board as well as on the Board of Governors of the Maritime Exchange for the Delaware River and Bay and has helped raise scholarship funds for the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

He took a particular interest in the relationship between Philadelphia and Chile and is a long-time president of the Chilean and American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia. With his work at DRS he developed business connections between the two regions, while his work with the Chamber built human connections.

Miriam Borja-Fisher of Western Fumigation has worked with Palaima for over 20 years, through her work as a fumigator and as a leader in the non-profit trade associations that facilitate the work and networking of the port community. She said, “Always the gentleman and peacemaker, Bob has played such a major role in many of the industries that call PhilaPort home. I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked with him.”

A native of Chicago, Palaima attended Colgate University as a War Memorial Scholar, graduating magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. He pursued postgraduate work at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University where he was an Edward R. Murrow Fellow. He subsequently worked for the Illinois Department of Business and Economic Development before joining Philadelphia-based Lavino Shipping Company in 1980.

As he transitions to an advisory role at DRS, the company’s Vice President Andrew Sentyz will succeed him. Palaima will remain active on the Chilean American Chamber’s Board of Directors and with other community organizations.

Sentyz stated, “Bob has provided so many of us at DRS the opportunity to realize our full potential by challenging and encouraging us to find the best possible version of ourselves. I can think of no one who embodies what it means to be a leader more than Bob, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from him over the years.”

Palaima will continue to reside in Horsham, PA, where he looks forward to spending more time with his wife, Wendy.

SOURCE: Port of Philadelphia