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Frontline Fridays: Employees Keep Maritime Facilities Afloat

May 15, 2020

By Omie Drawhorn and Stephanie Riley

Our Frontline Fridays series features Port employees whose hard work and dedication keeps our facilities running safely during challenging times. 

Today we check in with three employees who are working tirelessly to keep our maritime facilities safe, clean, and operational for customers and employees. Their dedication is keeping our commercial fishing industries and recreational boating afloat.

Lani Jellings, Senior Facilities Coordinator, Recreational Boating: Shilshole Bay Marina (primary location), Bell Harbor Marina, and Harbor Island Marina 

Lani Jellings

1. Tell me about your job responsibilities on a typical day. 

I check in with facilities specialists on maintenance needs and connect with Marine Maintenance to submit work orders or check on the status of existing work orders. I also provide customer service, reconcile guest moorage, take large vessel reservations, and respond to emergencies when they arise. I make sure the marina is a safe and clean environment for staff and customers.

2.    What do you love about your job?

I love that every day is different — no matter what. I’ve been with the Port for almost 11 and a half years and every day brings new challenges. It keeps things interesting. I love my team and with some of them working from home, I miss them dearly right now. I enjoy being a mentor to college interns — every summer we host interns and a lot of them have moved on and gotten full-time positions at the Port. I like to see them be successful in the future. 

3.    How has your work changed with COVID-19? What has it been like working during COVID-19?

At times work has been scary because of the unknowns. It’s been a rapidly changing situation and we have had to adapt quickly and change our normal operations. We’ve had a lot more work orders for Marine Maintenance, such as installing hand sanitizing   stations at every marina gate for customers and requesting more personal protective equipment for staff. We have had to address more cleanliness and safety issues than before — we’ve taken steps like restricting public access in some areas and closing public restroom facilities. And we’ve communicated more with our customers to keep them informed on operational changes.  

4.    What motivates you or keeps you going? What makes you feel like you are making a difference?

I love my family and I am always thinking about them; that’s my number one motivation. I love my job. If I can help make one customer’s bad day into a good day because of something I do or help them with, that makes me feel like I am doing my part to help make a difference in someone’s day.

5.    What has been most challenging about this experience?

Even though I think communications have been great, not being able to work with all of my coworkers physically here has been a challenge. At first I didn’t think it was a big deal, but now I really miss the comradery and the ability to take five minutes to ask how their day is going. Not being able to see my family when I want to has been hard — it’s been 30 days since I’ve seen my family.

6.    What gives you hope? What are you most looking forward to once we get past this?

What gives me the most hope is knowing that this isn’t forever. This isn’t the new normal and one day we will get back to where we were. It might look a little different, but we will get back to it. What I am looking forward to is hopefully I will be able to celebrate my birthday (June 1st). I’m also looking forward to being able to hug someone without having to wear a mask, and without hesitation or fear. I’m looking forward to going to the movies, sitting down at my favorite restaurant for dinner, spending time with friends, and going to a Seahawks game. 

Raing Yin, Crew Chief, Marine Maintenance

Raing Yin

1.    Tell us about your job responsibilities on a typical day.

I supervise seven crew members who clean at Port maritime facilities, including marinas, cruise terminals, commercial fishing and recreational moorage facilities, and Port parks. We keep Port offices and public and employee restrooms clean. 

2.    What do you like about your job?

I really like my job and the Port treats us very well. I like the people on my crew and their dedication to keep our facilities clean and safe. 

3.    How has your job changed with COVID-19?

We use disinfectant spray when we’re cleaning the bathrooms and other parts of the facilities. Before we clean and after we’re done with a job, the best thing we can do to take care of ourselves is wash our hands with soap. We use disinfectant wipes on the keys to buildings, and we wipe down all our phones and everything in our office. We clean and sanitize all surfaces including the top of all dispensers and all doorknobs. To follow physical distancing guidelines, my crew doesn’t drive together anymore and when we arrive at Port facilities we work alone, dividing up the cleaning tasks and locations to get everything done. Face coverings and gloves are provided to us so we can stay as safe as possible.

4.    Why is your job essential right now? Why is it important?

If we didn’t show up to work, the restrooms would not get cleaned. We need to be here to help keep the facilities clean and running for the employees, customers, and community members who use it. We are here, seven days a week, 365 days a year to make sure everything stays open and runs as smoothly as possible.

5.    What is motivating you right now?

We want to keep our customers happy. Customers should find clean, safe restrooms at Port facilities and so they can continue to safely use our buildings for essential operations and activities, like going to their commercial fishing jobs and making a living. 

Delmas Whittaker, Sr. Manager, Fishing and Commercial Vessels, Fishermen’s Terminal/Maritime Industrial Center/Salmon Bay Marina

Delmas Whittaker

1.    Tell me about your role and responsibilities at the Port.

Before this crisis, I was very engaged with outreach to our industry and community leaders to raise awareness about the maritime industry and provide support as we build partnerships around the area for the fishing industry.That interaction has waned slightly as we’ve shifted gears to a virtual meeting place. From an operational perspective, we still maintain a full staff at Fishermen’s Terminal that has a specific mission with regards to supporting the North Pacific Fishing Fleet at Fishermen’s Terminal and Maritime Industrial Center. As for Salmon Bay Marina, we continue to provide routine marina services for our recreational boating community. Marine Maintenance continues to provide limited facilities maintenance, and Harbor Operations provides safety and security checks daily. We also have contracted security to assist with safety and security after-hours. We’re doing our best to meet customer and tenant expectations during these difficult times. 

2.    What does work look like right now during the COVID-19 response?

I’m on-site three days a week, and I’m taking that opportunity to assess where our needs are and where we can focus as we move towards our new norm environment. I’m there to support my team as they help manage our facilities and maintain our security and life safety mission. At any time, our staff could be called upon to serve as first responders to an incident like a person in the water, a fire on the dock, or a worker in distress. I’m trying to maintain leadership among the staff, respond to their questions, and help with our decision-making process.

3.    How is your staff responding to this crisis?

My staff is committed to keeping operations going in support of the fishing industry. During this time of year, our population is rising. Fishers are getting prepped for the upcoming fishing season as local residents are still frequenting our restaurants for takeout and strolling the docks for exercise and fresh air. The majority of our North Pacific Fishing Fleet vessels fish in Alaska waters. As of now, the hake and salmon seasons are still scheduled to be open. We’re working feverishly to make sure they have the right precautions and policies out there that align with being prepared. My leadership team and I are keeping our folks up to speed with these changes to do whatever we can to support our fishers. 

4.    How has your background prepared you for working during COVID-19?

I am a retired Naval Officer and for most of my adult years, I have been working in operational or support environments. I’ve had several opportunities to be part of a disaster and emergency response in various parts of the world. I've worked as a Law Enforcement Specialist in Yokosuka, Japan. I was an Anti-Terrorism Officer in the Navy and on the Navy Region Northwest Admiral's Afloat staff during 9/11. At the Port of Seattle, I've had the pleasure of working with our Emergency Management Team to plan and execute emergency exercises for years.  My background has left me well-prepared, so I’m pretty comfortable working in this changing environment.

5.    What do you love about your job?

I love the magnificent view from my window! I have the unique opportunity to see the North Pacific Fishing Fleet from my window every day. Just knowing the incredible impact this fleet and their harvest have on the fishing industry, Pacific Northwest economy, and the nation's food supply is very rewarding.  I'm proud to have the opportunity to support this industry. This old industry always has something new to teach you. It keeps me motivated and helps me to spread my wings a bit. This crisis has pushed us to make several changes in how we operate. It’s inspiring to watch everyone putting forth a genuine team effort and making the shift where possible and doing what they can to keep things moving. 

6.    What kind of leadership are you providing during this time?

The majority of my team has been working together for several years; they are, to a certain extent, self-sufficient and understand what needs to be done. My leadership team and I are placing focus where it needs to be in this new environment, never losing sight of our ultimate responsibility of supporting the fishing fleet and providing reliable customer service. 

As part of our COVID-19 response, we closed our office and are looking at what that means for how we communicate with our customers, and how do our employees do their outreach? Surprisingly, they're making the adjustments and making it happen. We are making preparations for the commercial fishing seasons and doing whatever I can do to keep them confident, keep them safe, and meet the needs of our customers. I’m proud to be a part of this craziness; we’re keeping the lights on and keeping getting our fishers ready to go fishing. 

Check out the other installments in our Frontline Fridays series:


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