Michael F. Marchan prefers a tropical climate. He grew up on St. Croix in the Virgin Islands and spent 18 years in operations at the Hovensa refinery there before it closed in 2012. Shortly thereafter he became a shift lead at the Seaport Canaveral fuel terminal in Florida.
Fittingly enough, when the company decided he needed fire training he ended up at the Williams Fire & Hazard Control Xtreme school held at Brayton Fire Training Field in Texas.
“What our company does is every year we sponsor four people – two operators and two firefighters – to attend this school,” Marchan said. “It helps build trust and goodwill with the guys that have our back. It also gives us good experience so we can understand what our firefighters need.”
Marchan’s state-of-the-art terminal has a capacity of nearly three million barrels of refined products. Its 24 tanks offer storage for gasoline, diesel, renewable diesel and biodiesel, ethanol, jet fuel and fuel oil. The terminal also has three jetties for direct loading and unloading of barges and ships.
Seaport Canaveral, owned by VTTI in the Netherlands, fills the operator slots from its own staff. The firefighters are provided by the nearby Cape Canaveral Fire Department.
“The way our terminal works is that any employee is trained to fill any other job position,” Marchan said. “I’m a supervisor but I also work as a control room operator or a security monitor. I can work inside or outside. So we are all exposed to the same dangers and need to know every parameter of the job.”
And that includes firefighting first responders.
“We sponsor a municipal fire department that’s only two minutes away,” Marchan said. “We share storage of all the equipment and even though they can operate it better than we can, it’s good to understand what can happen.”
With fixed monitors and fire extinguishers readily at hand, training at Brayton gives Seaport personnel the confidence to use the equipment if necessary, he said.
“To be honest, you never know what you’re reaction will be when you see a real fire,” Marchan said. “My first response might be ‘I quit, I’m gone.’ You need to understand your role and what you need to do to get on top of it.”
This training helps us to overcome our natural instinct for flight and gives us the tools to be smart about the fight, he said.
Working for an international company gives Marchan the chance to travel, he said. The best thing is that VTTI operates two propane plants in the Virgin Islands. While providing training at those plants, Marchan gets to visit home.
“It’s been an amazing experience working for Seaport Canaveral and VTTI,” he said.