Our People: Q&A with Marine Terminal Operator Roxanna Barrera

Business News

Sustainability, Long Beach, California, Careers, Safety
  • Marine Terminal Operator Roxanna Barrera has worked for Marathon Petroleum in Long Beach, California, for six years and enjoys the challenges and opportunities she’s accepted during her career.
  • As a Marine Terminal Operator, Barrera and her colleagues are responsible for bringing in ships to deliver or pick up petroleum products.
  • Barrera has been able to grow her career through temporary assignments in leadership positions and using the company’s educational reimbursement program to earn a degree in safety.

Roxanna Barrera loves showing her 8-year-old daughter pictures of the birds, pelicans and sea lions she sees at work. She tells her about the vessels her team brings into the terminal in Long Beach, California, and about the people she meets from all around the world.

“I love getting to meet people from Turkey, the Philippines, India, Ecuador, Korea and China,” said Barrera, a Marine Terminal Operator at Marathon Petroleum’s Terminal 2 in Long Beach. “The crews are usually at the dock for a few days loading and unloading petroleum products, so we share stories while monitoring the vessels.”

Barrera has worked for Marathon Petroleum for six years and enjoys the challenges and opportunities that she’s accepted during her career. We asked her six questions about her journey and plans for the future.

Barrera spending time with her daughter Olivia and her husband Gabrial at a pumpkin patch this past Halloween season.

First, what does a Marine Terminal Operator do? 

We operate the facility in terms of bringing in ships to deliver or pick up petroleum products. We manage everything related to moving petroleum into and out of the facility. There are tons of daily tasks. We physically tie up ships and boom in ships as an environmental safety precaution. We have tank farms here, so we gauge those tanks to allow the vessels to pump product into the tanks. We assist board operators in performing pipeline movements to allow product to move in, out and through our facilities by manually opening and closing valves.

Barrera operating the fire monitors to make sure they are in proper working order.
The view at 6 a.m. at Terminal 2 Berth 77 from the Crane Tower operations seat.

How did you get started in operations?

It was completely unexpected. I didn’t even know this type of job existed, but now I love it. I grew up here in Long Beach, and I didn’t know there was a marine terminal here. I knew there were refineries, but I didn’t really know all the career options that were available. After college, I was working for a manufacturing company in the quality control department in Carson, California. A coworker was in a program that was preparing her to be a refinery operator. It was an energy pathway program offered in the evenings, so I applied knowing that those kinds of jobs paid well, and the benefits were good. Through a mix of college courses and job site tours, I was exposed to the refineries, marine terminals and wastewater plants. After successfully completing the program, I received a certification in process technology, and then I applied for my job here at the marine terminal.

“I didn’t even know this type of job existed, but now I love it.”

What has been one of the biggest challenges in your career?

I’ve had several opportunities to challenge myself in my career. I am qualified to work at all the docks we manage and work in the yardman role, which is the most challenging for me because it is so physically demanding. Steps alone in a 12-hour shift can easily exceed 20,000, and that does not account for all the stairs we climb to reach the tanks. I try to go to the gym often to stay fit, so this physically challenging position is quite enjoyable.

Recently, I was able to take on a role in leadership as a temporary foreman at the terminal, which challenged me in new ways. Our organization gives people the opportunity to express interest in temporary assignments to support employee development and gain valuable experience. I previously applied for the operations supervisor role a year ago to get some experience interviewing. That let my leaders know I was interested in learning and growing, so when this temporary assignment opened, I was selected. The 90-day assignment was extended until the operations supervisor returned from his temporary assignment. I think I did a good job as a supervisor and I can’t wait to be challenged more when it is my turn to learn other lead roles. Now I’m back in my previous role as yardman, and I’m also working on my master’s degree.

This sea star was stuck to the boom and needed to be placed in a safer spot while crews worked to remove the boom from around a ship.
A midnight tie up at B-121 showing that the terminal is always a busy place.

Why did you decide to go back to school?

I am setting myself up to do more in this industry. I have my Bachelor of Science in Public Health Science from the University of California at Irvine. And now I’m back in school at Columbia Southern University working on my Master of Science in Occupational Health and Safety with a concentration in Environmental Management. I’ll graduate in April 2024.

I had a couple of conversations with my previous supervisor, and he had an interest in emergency preparedness. That got me thinking “what else can I do?” With Marathon there’s always room to grow. They encourage self-development. One leader asked me what I was interested in doing, and I shared that I was interested in our environmental, health and safety organization. He mentioned taking courses in safety and that led me to this master’s program. I applied for Marathon Petroleum’s educational reimbursement benefit, which provides financial assistance for certain education-related expenses. The company approved my degree program request for getting my master’s degree.

Barrera driving one of the boats to deploy the boom at Berth 121. “It was a beautiful sunny day and being out on the water driving boats lets me appreciate the awesome work we get to do.”

Where do you see yourself in the next few years?

I am going with the flow right now and open to opportunities. I love operations. I don’t have any plans currently to change roles, but I’m working to be ready if there’s an opportunity to move into safety. There are also a couple more roles in operations that I could learn here at the marine terminal.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I am married, and we have one daughter and a dog. I work 12-hour rotating day and night shifts. The way our schedules work, I work 15 or 16 days a month. That gives me time to work on my master’s program, spend time with my family and read plenty of books. I love having the flexibility to take care of my home life during the week and attend my daughter’s school functions. Being present in my family’s life was a goal for me in 2023, and I feel like the marine terminal has allowed me to do that all while having a fulfilling career.

Interested in a career with Marathon Petroleum?  

Check out our jobs site to learn more.