Port Arthur Local Gains New Motiva Unit

Local 13-423 welcomed 13 terminal operators from the Motiva terminal in Port Neches, Texas, when they unanimously voted April 23, 2021, to join the union.

Negotiations for a first contract began Aug. 16. The new unit is working to establish a structured pay scale, secure their current benefits package in the new agreement, get a successorship clause, and gain job protection by limiting the ability to contract out their work.

“We have reached tentative agreements on some of the basic items, but we are still working through the majority of the language for benefits and wages,” said Committee Chairman Austin Sangster.

He said that he and his coworkers decided to join the USW because they felt they needed job security and comparable wages and benefits. In addition, he said there were some operational changes that were not in workers’ favor, and they felt more changes were coming.

“We also felt that we needed someone in our corner, and that is what the USW does,” Sangster said. 

The Motiva terminal was considered a “stand alone” operation because Shell-Motiva leased the facility’s operations to Oil Tanking, which was bought by Enterprise. This was one reason the workers earned less money than similar positions in the area at other docks and terminals that were connected to refineries in the USW’s National Oil Bargaining Program.

Motiva took back control of the terminal in 2017, and it is part of the Motiva Pipeline and Terminal company branch.

The 13 workers operate three different docks and manage eight shore tanks at the terminal. When ships and barges arrive, they ensure they are safely and properly berthed. They verify shipments of crude oil and chemicals shipped into and out of their facility and check on shore tank space. 

The terminal operators ensure the hoses are connected properly when transferring material on and off the vessels so there are not any leaks into the Neches River. They use pumps to move crude oil from the shore tanks seven to eight miles via the Interplant pipeline for refining at the Port Arthur Manufacturing Complex (PAMC). The Motiva refinery and chemical plant are located at the PAMC.

Besides managing the movement of crude oil and vacuum gas oil, the 13 terminal operators handle the transport of benzene, cyclohexane and debutanized aromatic concentrate (DAC). They pump benzene from the barges through a separate pipeline to the chemical plant. The cyclohexane and DAC chemical products are pumped from the chemical plant through separate pipelines into the shore tanks.

Workers operate a loading arm or connect the hoses between the barges and shore tanks, meet with the barge tankerman and complete paperwork, and monitor the connections between the shore tanks and barges throughout the load or discharge until it is complete.

“We have to be precise in our work when managing these hazardous chemicals,” Sangster said. “Otherwise, a serious incident could occur, and we don’t want to put ourselves, the environment or the community in harm’s way.”

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