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Moran Shipping CEO and Maritime Leader Jim Black Passes Away

Moran Shipping Agencies
James A. "Jim" Black, President and CEO, Moran Shipping Agencies

Published Aug 1, 2023 6:01 PM by The Maritime Executive

Moran Shipping Agencies announced the sudden passing of its President and CEO James “Jim” Black following a brief illness. In addition to his longtime role as owner and leader of the company, which became the largest independent steamship agency in North America, Black is remembered as an advocate for the shipping industry and the Port of Houston and a mentor to many in the industry. 

“Jim was more than our fearless leader who guided Moran through dramatic industry changes, though he was exactly that. He was also our friend,” said the company in announcing his death. “All those who knew him knew of Jim’s kindness, his compassion, and his commitment to the maritime industry. The positive impact that Jim made throughout his career is felt not only by those who worked with him but also by the entire maritime community.”

Born in Fall River, Massachusetts, the son of a bricklayer, he remembered that it was his older brother Bob who “rescued me from a career in restaurant management when he introduced me to the world of shipping.” Jim Black went to work for his brother Bob in 1974 at Moran starting his career as a boarding agent.

Moran was founded in 1937 focusing its operations in New England. James Moran had started the company and then it was managed by Ed Moran till his death in 1970 when Bob Black acquired the company which he had been working at since 1962.

Years later, Jim Black recalled their business in the 1960s and 1970s was managing U.S.-flagged tankers discharging heating oil and gasoline transported from the refineries in Texas and Louisiana to the ports in New England. Bob Moran decided to expand the company into the Gulf Coast in the 1970s and when no one else at the company wanted to move to Houston, he sent his younger brother Jim to manage the new operation. 

Managing the then Moran-Thibodeau Shipping Agency, later to become Moran-Gulf Coast Shipping Agencies, Jim oversaw a decade of growth. By the mid-1980s they were operating offices in Port Arthur, Corpus Christie, Galveston, New Orleans, and Fort Lauderdale managing as many as 1,000 vessel arrivals a year.

Jim and his brother Mike acquired the company when their older brother Bob Black retired in 1986. Mike retired in 2004 with Jim running the company, which by the late 2010s had grown to 18 offices, international sales reps, and more than 145 people. 

Asked by The Maritime Executive in a 2018 profile what his passion was, Jim Black responded, “My passion is a love for this industry and, especially, finding simple solutions for what some might deem to be complex problems.” He liked to be hands-on but most of all everyone remembers him for his time spent mentoring and developing people. One employee recalled he never wanted to downsize or hand out a pink slip and in times of need he saw to it that employees had temporary housing after a devastating hurricane struck the area. 

The Greater Houston Port Bureau in 2019 recognized Jim Black’s long contributions to the port and industry by honoring him as Maritime Leader of the Year. Houston joined in the honors designating August 17, 2019, as James A. Black Day.

The Maritime Executive wishes to express its condolences to the Black family as well as his extended family at Moran Shipping Agencies and the Houston shipping community on the loss of Jim Black.