Terminal Manager Harvey Vallier’s coordination brought together representatives from the California Office of Spill Prevention and Response, the U.S. Coast Guard, and others.
Without warning, at precisely 9:01 a.m. on March 15, 2023, while The Jankovich Company’s San Diego Marine Terminal was conducting fuel transfer operations to the Barge Never Enuf, Terminal Manager Daniel “Harvey” Vallier informed his Operators that Southern California was experiencing severe tremors and that the United States Geological Survey recorded a 6.9 magnitude earthquake near the Mexican border.
The Jankovich Company’s Person in Charge (PIC) performed all required actions, noting a rainbow sheen spreading from under the Berth. He alerted the team that there was already a 100-foot by 120-foot sheen spreading from the dock.
At 9:36 a.m., following reported aftershocks, the PIC and Operator conducted an initial damage assessment, concluding that the pipelines under the Berth running to and from Tank #1, which has a total capacity of 50,000 barrels, with an additional potential 200 barrels in the pipeline, was damaged. The team had to decide what to do next.
“Thankfully, it was just a drill,” said Vallier, who spent hours coordinating with the California Office of Spill Prevention and Response, the U.S. Coast Guard, and others to practice informing stakeholders, identifying objectives, strategizing, and acting decisively to contain the spill. “Every year, we’re required to do a ‘tabletop drill,’ and everyone gets involved. It’s nice to meet each other in person, so if we do ever have an accident, we’ve practiced working together.”
‘All we can do is train and be as safe as possible’
Vallier joined The Jankovich Company 30 years ago. Originally from Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, he started working at a gas station when he was still in grade school, moving into a career on the tugboats that work the Great Lakes. He transferred to Chicago, where he hauled fuel barges, then Hawaii, where he carefully maneuvered jet fuel barges in and out of Pearl Harbor.
“I did that for five years until Hawaii got really small,” he laughed. “I left Hawaii for San Diego, and I was looking for a job when I saw a little newspaper ad for a tanker person who had a license to transfer fuel across the water.”
In 1988, Vallier officially joined the ranks of British Petroleum. On Feb. 1, 1993, The Jankovich Company took over.
“Mr. Jankovich came down (to the terminal) and asked if anyone wanted to stay, and I was the only one who raised my hand,” he laughed. “I instantly became the Terminal Manager, and I’ve been here ever since.”
Vallier was tasked as ‘coordinator’ of the March drill, a position he takes very seriously.
“We try to make it as realistic as possible. It’s us, fish and game, state lands, and the Coast Guard. There are certain criteria we have to meet, like notifications, equipment deployment, communications, assessing damage to other vessels and determining who to call, assessing damage to wildlife and determining who to call—we need to determine who’s in charge, how big the sheen is, how we’re going to clean it up, who’s responsible.”
Despite the serious nature of the drill, it’s also important to develop a sense of camaraderie, Vallier said. He counted some 26 people at this year’s exercise.
“When an accident happens, you’re going to need help,” he said. “We assign roles for each person—finance officer, safety officer. In the event of an actual spill, everyone would come to us. They’d need hotels, food—the food for all the workers would have to be covered. There’d be a night shift, so we could clean up around the clock. That’s why oil spills are so expensive.”
As they should be, he concluded.
“There are two types of failure in our industry—mechanical and human. Mechanical, I can live with. When it’s human failure, it’s worse. All we can do is train and be as safe as possible. Safety is an everyday thing we have to think about. For example, we fuel the San Diego Airport, pumping 1,700 barrels of jet fuel an hour. You have to pay attention. It’s second nature to always be on guard.
“I love my job,” he concluded, “And I’m honored to take the reins of the drill. We move a lot of dangerous products, but they’re only dangerous in the hands of someone careless—or someone who isn’t prepared for any and every eventuality.”