Haroon Mohammed is a picture of quiet determination. In 2013, Haroon celebrated 30 years of dedicated service to BP Trinidad and Tobago (bpTT). A simple man of humble beginnings, he grew up in a time when the only work he knew was what he saw his elders and parents doing on the estates – planting and reaping sugar cane and transporting it to the factory using mules and donkey carts. Now 60, he walks through the terminal at Galeota Point where everyone knows his name. Many would call him quiet and reserved, rarely talking about himself, but he surprises you when you get to know him. Haroon sat down with Inside bpTT to give us a look into his 30 years with the company where he has been a Laboratory Technician.
What was it like when you started working at bpTT 30 years ago?
When I started working here, I was the most junior person in the lab at Galeota. Before that, I had worked at Texaco Trinidad (now Petrotrin) for nine years in a similar capacity. I was hesitant to take on a role in the company, particularly because of the distance I would have to travel from my home in Hindustan Road, New Grant to Galeota. But the opportunity was one I couldn’t turn down. While there were similarities to the roles, it was distinctly different. Because products are made at Petrotrin, the type of analysis required there was different. Here at the terminal, it is more of a production facility with quality control analysis that is more or less limited to crude oil. So initially to be honest, it wasn’t what I expected but with the passage of time there was a big shift toward environmental management. This is where my real passion lies.
Can you explain what your role as a Laboratory Technician entails on a daily basis?
BPTT’s facility in Galeota has an established laboratory attached to the control room. Here, we handle crude oil and condensate coming in from offshore. The analysis that we perform is centered on crude oil production and we are specifically involved in royalty evaluations of the product (the taxes paid to the government of Trinidad and Tobago is based on these evaluations). A big part of the lab operations is also tanker loading. Twice a month, tanker ships come in to Galeota Point where they load crude oil for export. These tankers can carry 600,000 barrels of crude. In order for these tankers to be loaded up, certain specifications have to be met for loading and this analysis is done by myself, and must be witnessed by Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs personnel and the tanker’s cargo representatives. Based on when the tankers come to land, we’re here: sometimes at 2:00 or 3:00 am, weekends and public holidays. A tanker can take 24 to 31 hours to be filled. But it’s my role to be here to ensure that prior to the completion of the loading our standards are met which benefits both bpTT and the Government. The royalties earned are contributed towards national development and a better life for our citizens. Another area that we perform at the lab is the monitoring of all environmental indicators here at Galeota – effluent discharges into the Guayaguayare Bay and Mayaro beach. BPTT has rigourous environmental standards that align the law stipulations with respect to regulatory discharges to the environment. In other words, there are clear limitations for what can be discharged into the environment and in what amounts. We analyze those figures to ensure that they are within the specifications.
You’ve committed over 30 years of service, working shifts and being called out as needed. How has your job affected your family life?
In the early years it was very difficult, as I would often spend most of my weekends at work. When I joined the company, I was a bachelor; but got married soon after. My wife understood the demands of my job. She stood by me and we raised our children together. I believe that my ambition and drive left a lasting impression on our children and set an example they could live by. During my time here, I have also been keen on self-improvement and making use of the opportunities that have come my way. I’ve completed two Bachelor’s degrees, and studied for 2 Masters degrees: Master of Science in Environmental Engineering in 2010 and Master of Science in Occupational, Environmental Health and Safety in 2012; all part time studied at University of the West Indies in St Augustine. As it relates to my family: my wife is a school-teacher, one of my daughters is in her final year at UWI St. Augustine and my other daughter attends Johns Hopkins University pursuing her masters in epidemiology and statistics. For the past six years my son Sherard has been working here at the terminal as an Operator Technician with the Kenson Group. I am indeed very proud of my children’s accomplishments and I know that the job I have held has helped to provide and motivate them to work hard to achieve their own personal success.
Over the years, what are some of the more notable changes you have seen in the company?
The big changes I’ve witnessed have been in safety and technology. Being connected to the BP group, we have seen and embraced the BP model as it relates to safety. An example of this is the work permit requirement for every job conducted. It is clearly visible how workmen have changed their behaviours towards safety and have put it at the forefront of how we work. There is a new rigor in the business when it comes to applying the technology and standards and in the lab we see a lot more emphasis on areas like calibrations, procedures, and use of state of the art equipment. For me this means that I have to be very attentive to my job. Although safety and technology have changed, being able to be a part of the change has helped me to grow as an individual. By working with bpTT, I have been exposed to many areas of the operations here at the terminal, and one of my real passions is in waste water management. I have seen bpTT improve over the years and I look forward to learning more as I advance in my career here. I have been fortunate to work with some excellent, caring individuals and there are many of them still around us at bpTT.
What advice can you give to a new recruit who just joined the company?
This company has opened the doors for many to learn and grow in their career. I would tell a young person to make use of the opportunities that have been available to you, because trust me, there are many! Keep on reading and keep learning. You can never learn too much!
What do you do in your spare time?
I am a country boy at heart, so I spend a lot of my spare time in the garden. I grow a lot of my own food around the house in the form of vegetables and fine crops. I also enjoy walking at least three times weekly. You have to take care of your health and try to have some balance especially where certain job functions can be very demanding.
"This company has opened the doors for many to learn and grow in their career. I would tell a young person to make use of the opportunities that have been available to you, because trust me, there are many! "Haroon Mohammed