Delivering millions of dollars worth of disaster recovery cargo to the most remote, typhoon-ravaged islands of Micronesia might sound like a swashbuckling, Treasure Island-esque task, but for Dom Peré, it was just another day at work.
As founder and co-owner of the Baton Rouge-based Marex Services Group, Peré manages the logistics of delivering cargo—chemicals downstream, oil and gas upstream, heavy equipment, or food and beverages—from one port to another throughout the world. It’s among an array of services the maritime logistics company offers to clients largely in the petrochemical and industrial sectors.
The company also marks the oldest in a trio of entrepreneurial ventures by Peré, and the only one he still owns. Earlier this year, he left the other two, selling his interest in Fila-Mar Energy Services (a first-mile proppant logistics provider) to a private investor, while selling PropDispatch (a last-mile proppant logistics provider) to a publicly traded Houston company, both in an effort to fully focus on Marex (which incorporates all parts of the supply chain).
His interest in the seemingly niche proppant logistics trade stems from six formative years spent working in the Middle East. As a recent LSU graduate in 2003, Peré impressed executives at The Shaw Group enough to eventually migrate from the mail room to an airplane bound for Dubai, where he’d work for three years in business development before joining a global yachting company. While living there, he learned how materials are transported, mastering an understanding of the process.
Since Marex formed in 2011, it has forged a presence in the petrochemical-rich Baton Rouge market, recently moving into a nautically inspired Downtown East headquarters.
“It’s interesting being an international shipping company based here, since it’s not something you have much of,” says Peré, declining to discuss revenues. “We’re in a well-situated spot for the Gulf Coast, and for access from the Gulf Coast into what I’d call this hemisphere of industrial work.”
The boutique firm mostly competes for international contracts at the national level. But through a couple of strategic personnel additions—including those of Peré’s business partner Paul Esser and Executive Vice President Jimmy Screen—Peré is expanding Marex’s services, client base and international footprint.
‘Get on the plane’
The idea for what would become Marex Services Group originated with the now-infamous BP oil spill of 2011.
“There was a need for crew boats, supply boats and barges in the Gulf, but there wasn’t much supply,” says Peré. “My idea was to build this website that would have all the inventory on it and make it a one-stop shop.”
So he created “The Marex” (short for “The Maritime Exchange”) to act as the consulting arm, with Vessel Charter serving as the brokerage arm. Business climbed with the emergence of ceramic proppant, or man-made frack sand, once Peré figured out the supply chain for the specialty material, which is used for oil and gas fracking.
However, in 2015, the oil and gas industry tanked, hitting all three of Peré’s companies overnight with “a severe multi-year downturn.” Each venture—by virtue of being privately owned and having little debt—weathered the storm, says Peré, though he was looking for a way to come out on top again.
His answer came the following year, through a game-changing partnership with Paul Esser.
The two had met years before, when Esser worked as chartering manager at the New Orleans office of the Netherlands-based Van Weelde Shipping Group. After contracting Fila-Mar to move some proppants from the Far East to the U.S. West Coast, Esser was introduced to Peré by the late Ben Blanchard, then vice president of Van Weelde. Immediately “feeling Dom’s high energy,” Esser says what started as a professional relationship between the two evolved into a genuine friendship.
In 2016, Peré asked Esser to join Marex, wanting to expand the company’s repertoire to include “blue water” operations and place a greater focus on the European market. Today, the two are equal shareholders in the company, with Esser now serving as co-owner and chief operating officer.
“Having worked for someone all my life, it was my first step in becoming an entrepreneur,” Esser says. “I was nervous, but Dom and I are very much aligned.”
Case in point: When the two were separately asked to select new branding for the company out of 30 options, each picked the same option. But professionally, each says the other provides much needed balance: While Esser provides Peré with years of institutional operational knowledge and sometimes needs to put the brakes on Peré’s growing list of ideas, Peré pushes Esser out of his comfort zone, encouraging him to take healthy, strategic risks.
When Esser took on his first major contract at Marex, a project for the Federated States of Micronesia, he noticed an opportunity to secure a particular kind of ship his client needed, but the ship was located overseas. Without hesitation, Peré told Esser to jump on a plane to obtain the ship at its location, and he did so, taking two-and-a-half days to get there and two-and-a-half days to return to Baton Rouge.
“It was a hunch that paid off. Dom taught me, ‘If you want to know something for sure, get on the plane and show your face,’” recalls Esser. “That’s what he does. He’d jump on a plane and do whatever else it takes to make something happen.”
The philosophy distinguishes Peré from his competitors, as most with international operations tend to conduct 100% of business via emails, phone calls and the internet, using third-party vendors to move clients’ cargo. Conversely, Marex always has people on the ground to ship cargo, allowing the company to give in-depth updates in real time.
As the site of Marex’s headquarters, Louisiana’s capital city holds significance for Peré. Not only is it where he met Ashley, his wife of 15 years, while both were attending LSU, but it’s also where he forged invaluable connections with plugged-in professionals within The Shaw Group.
Such was the case with Jimmy Screen, son of former Baton Rouge Mayor Pat Screen, who served as Peré’s link to corporate during his early 2000s stint in Dubai. In April, Peré hired Screen to serve as executive vice president of Marex, shortly after Screen left CSRS.
Screen remembers the young Peré as a “consistent, humble, and grounded” hard worker whose feathers weren’t easily ruffled. The two have maintained an easy friendship since, with Screen advising Marex during its early years.
“We’re trying to support our effort to gain new work while also attracting talented employees who understand where we’re going,” Screen says.
Part of that means upgrading the Vessel Charter website, which is undergoing a massive redesign to make it more data-driven in order to beef up its database of assets. The company plans to bring the redeveloped product to market next year.
It also means growing Marex’s footprint across the globe. In the past three years, the company has opened satellite offices in Guatemala and Dubai, with tentative plans to open more in The Netherlands and Austin, Texas.
Until then, Peré also wants to pick up more Louisiana companies operating in the oil and gas, industrial and disaster recovery spaces.
“We’re thinking about how to grow the company while staying true to our roots and not moving,” Peré says. “In a perfect world, we’d be in Houston, Miami, Washington, D.C., or another international city … but we want Baton Rouge to become that.”