…Says company was ready for the disaster
OpeOluwani Akintayo 16 September 2017, Sweetcrude, Lagos – Chief Executive Officer, CEO of Shell International, Ben Van Beurden, has recounted his experiences with the Hurricane Harvey and how it affected the company’s staff and facilities in the United States, describing it as “humbling”.
According to a post on Beurden’s LinkedIn account titled “Why I’m left humbled by Hurricane Harvey”, he said the period during which the natural disaster lasted in Houston, Texas, the company was prepared as it knew beforehand that the storm was heading to the city.
“Shell was ready. We knew Harvey was coming in,” he said.
The CEO revealed that before the hurricane struck, the company had evacuated rigs, closed down refining and chemical operations, tied down equipment, protected instruments after which it told its staff to go home to prepare.
“We could see some of our facilities were in its path (both onshore and offshore) and we put our plans into action: evacuating rigs, closing down refining and chemical operations, tying down equipment, protecting instruments, releasing staff to their homes to prepare, working out product supply plans with customers.
However, he said the impact of the storm was more than he had expected.
“Then it hit. It came in fast. And, as CEO, I very quickly realised the situation was turning into something far more profound than I could have ever expected”.
He commended Shell staff for staying true to their jobs despite the negative effects the hurricane had on them and their properties.
“Like most of you, I watched the footage on the television news and saw how Texans were suffering. And it was with those images in my mind that I began to hear of, and marvel at, the extraordinary things that were being done by Shell staff on the ground.
“People with their lives being turned upside down, with their possessions and property ruined and with the elements opposing them at every turn, were still doing their jobs, ensuring safety and helping their colleagues. The professionalism I have already heard about – and I am sure I have heard about only a tiny fraction of it – is humbling”.
According to him, at Shell’s refining and chemicals facility southeast of Houston, Deer Park, hundreds of employees and contractors stayed at the site and rode out the storm there to ensure safety, to assess damage, mitigate the impact and plan for recovery.
“Staff from Deer Park also loaned some portable six inch pumps from the facility to a nearby neighbourhood that was about to be flooded. The mayor later said they had saved several hundred homes”.
“In the parts of our business that work to ensure customers get the products they rely on, many employees headed out in advance of the storm to remote operating centres where they could ensure those products kept moving”.
“In the community, Shell staff have helped out so many in need that people are flagging down anybody wearing the company pecten symbol to say ‘thank you’ ”.
“These are the same staff who were worried that they wouldn’t have enough food to last until the flooding fell back… filling up their baths with water in fear of their supply becoming contaminated… printing off basic human survival checklists and advice to be ready for the very worst… trying to stay in contact with family and friends”.
“One Shell employee had six feet of water in her house. She realised there was nothing she could do… so she abandoned her home and took her husband and children to assist the Shell crisis team that had set up in another city”.
“And even now, with the sun coming back out and freeways beginning to emerge again from the water, the challenges keep on coming… and the professionalism in the face of those challenges keeps on coming”.
He said the resilience that has been on show in Texas has also been present 9,000 miles away in Mumbai, where floods have also hit and where Shell staff have also kept on going despite everything.
“Shell planned for corporate resilience… but not the depths of human resilience we have witnessed: the courage, the grit and the determination”.
“I have never been more proud of the company that I work for than today. I have never been more impressed by those I work with than now, or felt more honoured to call them my colleagues. What they have done stands alongside some of the brightest moments in 105 years of Shell history in the US”.
He then reassured that Shell would in turn, give assistances to its staff as they “rebuild their lives”.
“We will support those staff in all possible ways. We will help meet their needs today… It is the least we can do”, he said