Photo Caption: DES Lead Driver Paul Butterworth, in Puerto Rico with the fuel trucks.
Submitted by Randy Grizzle, DES
Fuel Logistics can be a challenge on a good day. Delivering gasoline and diesel into the impacted area of a hurricane is challenging on an entirely different level. In addition to floods and wind damage, hurricanes have the bad habit of making fuel supplies scarce.
The hurricane season of 2017 had already proven to be one of the most active seasons in recent memory. Diversified Energy Supply (DES), a national fuel marketer, thought they were officially done with hurricane recovery after the last backup generator on their list was filled after Hurricane Irma. Absent a late season hurricane, they could finally relax after weeks of relentless effort.
Hurricane Maria had other plans. Maria struck the island of Puerto Rico causing untold damage. The island was left without power, water and fuel. While tragic, this would not have been an immediate concern to Diversified. Diversified had never delivered fuel into Puerto Rico. In fact, none of the team members at Diversified had ever in their many years in the fuel industry delivered to Puerto Rico. A late-night call from a customer would change that.
The customer had facilities on the island that shipped various products that included medical supplies. Their locations needed fuel to keep trucks moving. The customer viewed this as a humanitarian event and was determined to help. This meant asking Diversified to send fuel trucks to Puerto Rico.
The customer connected Diversified to their export broker. The broker was at first hesitant. With gentle coaxing, the broker proved to be a godsend in helping navigate the many forms and regulations. The vessel operator who would carry the trucks from the Port of Jacksonville obtained waivers that allowed the trucks to be shipped loaded with gasoline and diesel. The fuel truck provider, Perry Oil, had contacts with other fuel companies operating on the island and was able to secure lodging for the drivers at a hotel that had electricity and satellite television where the drivers could wait entertained and in safety while the wheels of bureaucracy sputtered. Despite everything, the plan was slowing coming together.
There were many late evening and weekend calls with the customer, customs, truck suppliers, import brokers and drivers. Despite having no experience in Puerto Rico, language barriers, a storm damaged communication infrastructure, and mounds of bureaucracy, six fuel trucks made their way to the island, delivered fuel to the customer, and eventually returned home safely.
With so many challenges to overcome, there were several lessons DES was able to glean from this adventure to the island of Puerto Rico:
Persistence Pays: Given the complexity of the challenge it would have been easy to say, “no” and not deliver for the customer. There were plenty of opportunities to accept “no” as an answer. When faced with a sea of problems, do not allow yourself to become overwhelmed. Solve the first problem first. Upon completion, solve the next. With persistence, you just might be able to solve all of them.
Persistence Coupled with Creativity is Powerful: Sometimes simply hammering at a problem is not enough. Some problems require creative thinking. DES had to alter the framework of the agreement in order to meet certain regulatory requirements. The cabs of the trucks had to be filled with provisions for the drivers because food and water may not have been available otherwise. Travel agents were unable to find hotel rooms so creativity was required to ensure driver safety. When persistence alone cannot seize the day, creativity coupled with persistence can be a most powerful combination.
Success Is a Team Effort: Shipping fuel trucks to Puerto Rico was not just a Diversified Energy Supply story. The real truth is that DES would never had been able to achieve any of this without numerous heroes in the story.
Dorothy, an export broker, was scheduled to leave work early the evening Diversified called seeking help. She stayed until 9pm that night to get paperwork completed. In the middle of the event, Paul, the lead driver, learned that his brother passed away. Paul returned to the states for the funeral and then back to the island to usher the trucks back into port. Jackie, the import broker on the island, had no electricity so she would charge her phone in her car to keep communications open. Each hero worked tirelessly until the quest was complete.
Words cannot adequately describe all the effort these and other heroes made. Each worked for a different company but shared a common goal. Together they were able to achieve great things.
When facing the seemingly impossible, realize there are heroes around you. With their help and a common goal, the seemingly impossible can become the recently achieved.
It will take years for Puerto Rico to fully recover from the damage of Hurricane Maria. Diversified Energy Supply is thankful to have played a small part in the recovery and for the lessons learned. DES is also grateful for the heroes who contributed so much.
Diversified Energy Supply began serving customers as a wholesale natural gas supplier and within two years successfully launched wholesale power operations. In 2011 the company created a petroleum fuel subsidiary, Diversified Fuel Supply, and sold an equity stake to a strategic investor in the oil sector. In 2014, the company was able to repurchase all of the equity in its subsidiary and subsequently merged Diversified Fuel Supply into its parent company, DES Wholesale, LLC dba Diversified Energy Supply. Today the company is operated as a consolidated energy supply solution for our customers. The company has grown rapidly each year at a triple digit pace annually over the past 7 years. Diversified has no debt and enjoys strong supply relationships with the largest energy companies in the United States.