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Marathon Named Twice Among Benkert Award Winners

The U.S. Coast Guard presented its premiere environmental protection awards during a virtual ceremony May 21, with Marathon Petroleum Company winning two of the top honors.

The Rear Admiral William M. Benkert Marine Environmental Award for Excellence is awarded every two years by the Coast Guard. It recognizes corporations and businesses involved in marine facility or vessel operations that have demonstrated sustained excellence and outstanding achievement in protecting the marine environment over the past two years, according to the Coast Guard. The awards program also encourages innovation in operations, pollution prevention and response, environmental outreach and partnerships and provides a means for award recipients to share their successful methods and techniques with others in the industry.

Criteria include critical success factors, including environmental policies, objectives and targets, pollution prevention activity, safety management, outreach, partnership and performance metrics.

The award program has five levels of recognition: osprey, gold, silver, bronze and honorable mention.

This year, the award winners were: Osprey, Alaska Maritime Prevention & Response Network; gold, Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, SERVS and Valdez Marine Terminal; silver, Marathon Petroleum Company’s Storage and Logistics Terminals; bronze, Maersk Line Ltd.; and honorable mention, Seaspan Corporation and Marathon Petroleum Company’s Marine Transportation division.

“It’s an opportunity for companies to promote what they have done above and beyond the regulatory requirements to ensure they operate in an environmentally sound manner,” Galia Kaplan, Benkert Award Program manager for the Coast Guard, said of the award.

She added, “It’s a good platform for them to promote what they do and be proud of their accomplishments.”

The award is named after Rear Adm. William M. Benkert, who served at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, D.C., as chief of the Office of Marine Environment and Systems from 1972 to 1974 and as chief of the Office of Merchant Marine Safety from 1974 to 1978. According to information provided by the Coast Guard, many consider him to be the father of the Coast Guard’s marine safety and environmental protection mission.

Each year the Coast Guard receives roughly 10 award applications, each of which is reviewed and scored by a committee, Kaplan said.

Marathon’s Storage and Logistics Terminals won the silver award based on measures the corporation took to reduce both water and air pollution.

To decrease the potential of an oil spill, Marathon installed spray-proof flange wraps where flanges hang over the edge of docks, relocating underwater flanges and removing stress to hose connections, Kaplan said. The company also worked to prevent air emissions, including using optical gas imaging systems to ensure all terminals are checked for vapor leaks. In 2018 and 2019, the company used forward-looking infrared cameras to allow on-site technicians to repair leaking seals.

Marathon has also developed wildlife habitat on company property, participated in various regulatory trainings and supported community environmental efforts. One initiative that stood out, Kaplan said, was a partnership with Florida Energy Authority in Jacksonville, Fla., to build an underwater fence to prevent manatees from being attracted to warm water discharges.

For its honorable mention award, Marathon’s Marine Transportation division implemented, among other accomplishments, a monitoring system of all its towing vessels and barges to track operational parameters and their conditions in real time, thereby reducing the potential of a critical failure that could result in a spill, Kaplan said.

Another example of a notable Marathon project included in the silver award was when Marathon drilled its proficiency in the incident command system and sub-area response plans as part of a terminals exercise in Weirton, W.Va., Marathon Petroleum communications director Jamal Kheiry said.

The simulated incident was a worst-case scenario discharge spanning two different Environmental Protection Agency regions that had never had a joint functional exercise before.

“It provided great experience for state, local, federal and industry reps working together to address a major simulated oil spill,” Kheiry said.
More than 150 responders were trained as part of the two-day event, which Kheiry called one example of the Terminals division’s robust planning and exercise program.

“Safety and environmental stewardship are core values at Marathon Petroleum, and we strive for excellence in all areas of operation,” Kheiry said. “We are grateful that the Coast Guard has recognized our efforts through this award. The fuels and feedstocks that we accommodate in our logistics system every day help to enhance life’s possibilities for so many people, and our employees are proud to be recognized for doing this critical work safely, especially by an organization as respected as the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Kheiry added that Benkert was a leader in marine safety and environmental protection and that Marathon Petroleum is proud to be associated with his legacy.

Marathon Petroleum’s Marine Transportation division operates 23 towboats, including two  harbor boats and 21 line-haul boats, along with 306 tank barges, Kheiry said.

The company’s operational area spans the Ohio River system, Upper and Lower Mississippi rivers and Gulf Intracoastal Waterway from the Lower Mississippi River to the Houston Ship Channel.

In addition to vessel operations, Marathon Petroleum also operates a repair facility in Catlettsburg, Ky., which provides cleaning, welding, mechanical and electrical operations to support the vessels. Marathon also has 44 terminals with dock operations. Brown water terminals are located in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee, West Virginia and Louisiana.

Preserving the environment is important to Marathon, Kheiry said.

“Our Marine and Terminals organizations consider environmental stewardship as a critical component of our license to operate,” he said. “Our processes, procedures, assets, and—above all—our people are all focused on safety and stewardship of the land, air and water we all share. We strive to not only meet safety and environmental requirements in marine and terminal operations, but to exceed them.”