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Away From Home

It takes a special person to work on the water. Since making a career out of marine construction often requires travel, it also takes a special person to work away from home. Manson recognizes the many employees that make a tremendous sacrifice to support the work that we do on the nation’s waterways, and this requires spending time away from family. This article and the following profiles are meant to honor all of the people who make that sacrifice.

There are a number of different scenarios for people who work away from home. Some folks are assigned to a vessel and work a regular rotation – examples of this would be those who work on the hopper dredges or offshore on the E.P. PAUP. Others work on projects that are located far enough from home that they must temporarily relocate to a new town. And some folks who work on projects rotate into the job site in periodic rotations.

The following profiles present the realities of three people who work for Manson on projects away from home: Pary Palanisamy, Ellen Heile, and Randy Williams.


Chief Engineer on the GLENN EDWARDS

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

What attracted you to dredging? As a State University of New York (SUNY) Maritime graduate, I went to work on a ship and a few years later I started with Noble Drilling on a drill ship. A friend of a friend who was a captain on a dredge for Manson told me about dredging. Three and a half years ago I pursued this vocation, and have now achieved the position of chief engineer on the GLENN EDWARDS.

What rotation do you work? I work three weeks on and three weeks off. Can you describe your family at home?

I have a wife and a five-month-old daughter named Lina.

Do you enjoy being part of a consistent crew? It would be tougher if there were new faces every time you go out. You tend to learn what people are good at, how they operate, how the team functions, each role and position, each strength and weakness.

Is there a certain personality, character, or work style that allows someone to manage this type of work rotation? I like to work with people who are easy going and go with the flow. I like to joke around a lot but I keep it good-natured. You literally spend half your life with the guys on the dredge – you have to get along.

How does your family cope when you aren’t around? My wife is strong and independent. She would love for me to be home more, but she accepts that this is what I do and understands that there will be sacrifices.

What about missing some of the significant events in your life? During my time off I am daddy daycare. Because of the rotation, I think that I spend more quality time with my daughter, but I still miss being there every day.

How have the changes to technology affected your ability to stay in touch? When I was on the drill ship we had to buy satellite phone cards to call home. There was one email account on the ship. I would have to write out a message and give to the captain, he would send the email and then let you know when you got a response. It typically took a few days. Now I have cell phone coverage 95% of the time. The ability to FaceTime and text are game changers for staying in touch when working away.


Field Engineer, Pier 8 Wharf Construction, San Diego.

Hometown: I call the California Bay Area home. I went to college in Berkeley and then went to work on a job in the Bay.

Why were you interested in relocating? The Area Manager mentioned the possibility of relocating some time before my last job was complete. I remembered the conversation and pursued the relocation. I am at the beginning of my career and I see the importance in working in different settings, with different people on different projects. Because I am at this point in my life, I don’t have serious commitments that conflict with relocating for a job. I view this as a real learning opportunity.

Did anyone move with you or did you leave anyone behind? My boyfriend, E.J., moved with me. Though his job is based in San Diego, he works remotely, so that made his move possible.

How was the move? The move was harder than I expected. I suspect that is primarily because of COVID-19 protocols. Everything was getting shut down just as we were trying to find an apartment and establish a routine. It was particularly difficult to find an apartment because of the difficulty in coordinating visits with the landlords. I wasn’t flying, so travel from Southern to Northern California was time consuming and difficult.

How are you enjoying San Diego? I like it; I am outdoorsy. We are still looking for good places to hike and be outdoors.

How do you stay in touch with family and friends back home? I try to text or call parents each day. I play virtual games over Skype with my mom. The virtual connection goes a long way. The pandemic has made it very difficult to stay in touch no matter where people are located.

Is there anything else to say about accepting a position that required relocating? It was a great decision for me. I have enjoyed learning how different practices are from the different areas. The project team is remarkable, and everyone is close, probably because we all relocated to be here.


Foreman on the Port of Port Arthur Berth 5 Wharf EXTENSION

Hometown: McComb, Mississippi

What family do you have back home in McComb? My wife, Lashanna; son, Rendarus, 22 years old; and daughter, Azarius, 17 years old.

Why did you get into marine construction, and what other jobs have you had? I worked a lot of years in the Gulf on a drill rig, but I have been in general construction for the last 15. For the last five years, I have worked in marine construction as a carpenter. I have been with Manson for the last two years and, before that, on a Sabine Pass dock job.

How often do you get back home? I try to get home every other weekend. It is a five-hour drive, and I leave after the shift on Saturday. I start heading back in the afternoon on Sunday. It is really just a quick check-in. I enjoy having a little time off to spend at home.

What is the best/worst part of the job? The best part is the paycheck, we all have to make a living. The worst part is being so far away that you can’t get back for something small.

How does your family cope with you being gone? My wife is used to this set up. When I was offshore I was gone for long stretches and she got to where she can take care of everything.

How do you stay in touch? Nothing special, I just call my wife in the morning as she is getting ready for work and then I check in again when we break for lunch. It is nice to be able to talk to her twice a day.

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