Refuelling an aircraft is a complex process. At age 52, Nehemias B. Salaver, Shell Aviation (SAV) Philippines operator, makes it look easy. He goes through a precise sequence of steps— from positioning the fuel tanker; to making the necessary grounded connections between aircraft tank and hydrant; to checking the gauge, opening valves, and activating fuel delivery— all within 15 minutes. Then he calmly reverses his steps and moves on to the next aircraft, navigating through the airport traffic.

Salaver joined SAV in 1987, initially as a contractor for maintenance, fresh off his scholarship under the Sanayan sa Kakahayang Industrial (SKIL) programme of the Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. “Ang trabaho, more on diskarte (The job is more on strategy). If you don’t study all the functions, you’ll limit what you can do. I learned, so I don’t get nervous, even when the auditor asks questions,” he said, in Filipino.

A premium on safety

SAV is audited annually, solidifying its reputation of being a responsible business. The heart of its operations is situated in the Joint Oil Companies Aviation Fuel Storage Plant (JOCASP) within NAIA. These are premises shared by Chevron and Petron since 1962. A champion of safety, SAV escalated its advocacy when a contractor was involved in an incident at JOCASP in 1998.

“One of our goals is to bring HSSE (Health, Safety, Security, and Environment) to the highest level of consciousness. The dilemma for us, in a joint venture environment, is that we do not have sole responsibility. So we try to share our knowledge and influence,” said Melchor “Jun” Abina, Jr., SAV Country Operations Manager, noting Pilipinas Shell’s ties to the Operations Committee and the HSSE Working Group at NAIA.

SAV is active in the Operations Committee and the HSSE Working Group at NAIA, and tries to intercede where there are unsafe conditions. When NAIA equipment proved insufficient to detect lightning strikes in 2014, for example, they furnished the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) with portable lightning detectors. “MIAA was able to establish a protocol. Eventually, they purchased their own equipment. Now, whenever there are lightning strikes within a 5-kilometre radius, MIAA issues a warning to stop operations,” Abina said.

SAV is also represented in the global Joint Inspection Group (JIG), which develops standards to govern the operation of shared fuel storage and handling facilities worldwide. Pilipinas Shell’s latest contribution has been to determine better controls to test aviation equipment and lower the risk of fuel-related incidents. Internally, the Company is already introducing a more efficient water separator. “You’re keeping your equipment and processes safe, and at the same time you’re keeping the passengers in the airlines safe,” said Abina.

Bigger footprint, better impacts

For its 55th year, SAV expanded its refuelling network to include Mactan-Cebu International Airport (CEB), currently the second busiest terminal in the country. With this latest entry, Pilipinas Shell now supplies jet fuel at three of the key international airports in the country, including Manila (MNL) and Clark, Pampanga (CRK).

“Customers prefer Shell, they see how we work,” said SAV Manila Airport Operations Manager Boyet Pastrana, whose focus is safety. They’ve recorded 7,093 days of zero harm since that fateful midnight in 1998—that’s 1,893,944 safety man-hours for the past 20 years—and 3,806 days of zero leaks since 2007. SAV Manila was one of only three finalists for the Shell Diamond Award on Safety. This 2017, the business has been awarded another win by the Safety Organization of the Philippines (SOPI), and is slated for a Double Platinum Award from Shell Global HSSE.

Since 1998, the only “spots” in their record are from a seatbelt issue in 2013, and a moving vehicle issue in 2015. “We’re actually proud that we chose to report that isolated case of not wearing a seatbelt,” said Patrick Manalo, a supervisor whose focal is vehicular maintenance. “Regardless of the consequence, you own your mistake, and you don’t compromise on the safety of your co-workers.”

There are 14 members in the SAV Manila team: a country manager, a site manager, three supervisors, and nine into-plane operators. Many of them are long-time employees: Manalo is clocking 18 years; Abina, 22; Salaver, 31; and Pastrana, 32. All operators are required to complete their Aviation Centre of Excellence (ACE) Training, which is renewed every three years. They are trained in safe and effective operations, including use of modern equipment; marketing support; supply security; and customer care. All three supervisors also undergo shifts in roles—from administration and purchasing, to vehicle maintenance, to safety.

“Our group has initiative. There’s always someone asking for another’s help to learn a new expertise” said Manalo, in Filipino. “The perception is that we’re drivers because we drive trucks. But the core is safety, and delivering the goods that we need to deliver. We excel at that.”

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