Merrilee Gorman is “deeply concerned about doing the right things the right way.”
Merrilee Gorman, Vessel Operations Manager, began her career with Tropical Shipping 38 years ago as an accounting records clerk.
“When I started at Tropical, it was just a desk job in the accounting department. But the longer I worked here, the more I noticed that it wasn’t just a job: Tropical cared about its employees.
Now the company’s director of ship operations, she is the recipient of the 2021-2022 Mike Garvey Award for Distinguished Service in Safety. This award recognizes a commitment to safety for many years.
Gorman’s migration from accounting to operations was gradual. She held half a dozen positions during her tenure at Tropical, including stops in documentation, customer service and dispatch, taking on varying degrees of responsibility and eventually moving into operations.
“I feel so privileged to work in Operations. Operations are the real challenge, and we have an exceptional team here. Building teams that work together and all strive for the same results can be difficult.
Gorman was appointed by her manager, U.S. terminal operations director Claude Clevinger.
“Merrilee… is committed to safety and excellence in everything she does, and she lives this commitment every day in her role as Site Manager for the operation of Tropical’s terminal at the Port of Palm Beach, in Florida. She cares deeply about doing the right things the right way.
Clevinger explained that Gorman oversees the activity of three supervisors and seven teams of rigging employees – each team consisting of a crane operator, two strad operators and two ground crews – operating on two shifts. each day.
“Merrilee doesn’t just talk, she walks the talk,” Clevinger continued, noting Gorman’s daily interactions with each team in their respective work areas.
“I make it a point to stay in touch (throughout the day),” Gorman said. “(Crews) are on the ground in all weather conditions except lightning. In the summer we have a lot of days when the temperature is over 90 degrees and quite a few afternoon thunderstorms… They are here to keep working to make sure the ships stay on schedule.To beat the heat, I will bring watermelon, popsicles or Gatorade and distribute them during the hottest part of the day.
Gorman has come full circle in his understanding of how operations affect all aspects of business.
“These guys are there until the job is done. They are so accommodating and reliable. Without them, I’m sure we wouldn’t have the success we have.
For Gorman, safety—the innate instinct to care deeply about the well-being of the person working alongside you—is about establishing a connection first.
“I remember years ago I made a bet with a co-worker on a Miami Dolphins game against the New England Patriots (football). The loser had to sing the winning team’s fight song every hour. I lost. I’m not a “Dolfan”, but I got the Miami fight song music and sang every hour. It seemed that every hour the crowd grew.
Once the link is made, Gorman said, security becomes a matter of daily reminders.
“You can’t just not talk about safety and hope for the best. It must be preached and practiced to remain fresh in everyone’s mind. Every morning, I hold pre-shift meetings with all the teams. We discuss the day’s workload and any concerns everyone may have. Our meetings end with safety, and we always give the same reminders: “Blow your horn at the ice line.” “Respect the stop bars. “Respect the speed limit.” And, of course, “Watch your numbers.
“When I started as a file clerk in 1984, I never thought I would one day be the ship’s operations manager. I was a little hesitant to work in a “man’s world”, but I’ve never regretted it. Not a minute. I was extremely lucky to have been mentored by the best in the industry and to work alongside an amazing group of people who taught me to step out of my comfort zone. You set your own limits. And above all, the people by your side are among your greatest assets.