Marine Lubricants Engineer Solves Problems

Posted by Nicole Ventimiglia

Shell’s MayMarie Culton Coaches Ship Owners to Achieve Championship Performance


As a high school track and basketball star and power forward for the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Mariners basketball team, Shell Marine Products engineer MayMarie Culton understands a thing or two about coaching. Moreover, she combines six years’ experience sailing around the globe as a marine engineer with her professional career at Shell Marine Products (SMP) to advise customers how to get the best performance from their lubricants. Like sports excellence and coaching, it’s a natural fit.

“Basketball involves a certain amount of athletic skill, but an excellent coach can make the difference between good and championship performance. I take coaching seriously. It’s one of the reasons why I like to help my customers get performance out of their lubricants, including achieving greater efficiency and cost savings,” Culton told MarineNews in October.

Culton is part of a global network of experts within SMP who supply lubricants and technical support services to the international and local marine industry, which consumes as much as 6% of the world’s total lubricants demand. As part of her job, Culton acts as a Shell Lubricants Coach, offering direct customers and distributors training in lubricant tribology and product application to help provide the most cost-effective lubricant for customers’ machinery. Keeping customers updated on latest industry requirements in terms of marine lubes and fuels, as well as Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) recommendations, Culton also offers technical expertise to help onboard users achieve what she characterizes as “championship” performance.

“Shell researchers work with customers, engine manufacturers, suppliers and key academic institutions to discover ways to improve engine efficiency and optimize lubricant feed rates. Test engines are put under the harshest running conditions to help develop new and improved products,” says Culton, adding, “I get to take the outcome of Shell innovation and apply it through problem solving and coaching.”

Determining Best Product for Performance
Culton answers technical queries, gives product application and change-over advice, and provides product troubleshooting. Her job often takes her aboard vessels or has her working with OEMs. Equally comfortable in the office or in the field, she can be found in the scavenge space of a vessel inspecting engine cylinders or consulting with a chief engineer to verify if the ideal CLO Feed Rate is applied.
According to Culton, the use of the most suitable product is crucial. For example, the use of Low-SAPS (low sulphated ash, phosphorous and sulfur) lubricant when using low sulfur distillates is fundamental to minimize deposit formation and for proper and issue-free operation, especially with the new, stricter emission standards applied in North American Emission Control Areas (ECA).

Which Product is the right one, she asks? “For example, Shell Rotella T Triple Protection (Low-SAPS) is designed not only to control wear and deposits formation but also to minimize emissions. It’s an ideal lubricant for customers who plan to extend engine components overhaul while maximizing the oil efficiency,” Culton says. “The choice of a lubricant that meets the customer-specific profile can drive to equipment best performance and maintenance savings. The ultimate goal is to provide peace of mind to the final user and gain trust for Shell.”

Sea Passage: On Board and on to Shell Marine
Culton understands the critical role oils and greases play in ensuring smooth sailing. She began her time on the high seas as a cadet at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy with the Military Sealift Command, which today is one of Shell Marine’s largest customers. After graduation, she worked as a marine engineer for a variety of shipping companies. Here, her work spanned from a bulk carrier vessel carrying humanitarian cargoes of U.S. grain to Africa and then, with prominent U.S.-based shipping companies such as Liberty Maritime, Central Gulf Lines and Crowley Maritime Corporation.

There’s no substitute for time spent at sea. Because of her maritime experience, Culton is able to see through the eyes of the customer. “I’ve assisted in overhauling engines and maintaining most of the equipment in the engine room. I’ve worked with suppliers and distributors to make sure they filled fuel and lubricants storage tanks at correct levels. I understand what customers want and what they look for when it comes to lubricant applications. My goal is to help them reduce their lubrication costs and give peace of mind by increasing operational efficiency.”

Marine lubricants “Championship Performance” Tips from MayMarie Culton:

  1. KNOW THE BENEFITS: Have a general understanding of the key benefits in using the current lubricants for your machinery onboard. Make sure your lubes fit your vessel’s function/profile. Refer to your technical data sheets when in doubt.
  2. BE AWARE: Learn about and utilize strategic tools (portable kits, life extension tools, advanced monitoring, etc.) available that can increase machinery life, help avoid unexpected breakdowns, and reduce operational and lubrication total costs.
  3. STAY CURRENT: Stay up to date on major marine industry news including robust innovations, health, safety, and environmental standards involving your marine lubricants.

Shell at the Forefront
With offices in Singapore, London, Shanghai and Houston and staff strategically placed around the world, SMP offers an extensive range of lubricants to marine vessels of different sizes, from container ships to fishing vessels. Culton and other global technical experts within SMP who help develop, implement and maintain effective lubrication programs for customer fleets are backed by the Shell Marine and Power Innovation Center (MPIC) in Hamburg, Germany, which is part of Shell Global Solutions Technology.  

Marine has always been a very important business for Shell. Through almost 100 years of history, Shell researchers and scientists have played a key role to help SMP meet the standards and requirements requested by the industry and to play a leadership role in terms of innovative high-performance lubricants and associated technical support. Through it all, Shell has come to be recognized as a reliable and trusted lubricant and technical-support supplier.

Shell Marine developed a complete high performance CLO solution for vessels operating in ECAs, where marine fuels must meet certain sulfur content limits. Shell Alexia S3, which will be available to customers in major ports starting in December. It meets the revised ECA regulation, effective January 1, 2015, that requires an onboard max 0.10%weight S content Fuel. In the coming years, the global maritime industry will see more stringent sulfur oxide (SOX) restrictions in ECA areas, such as the Baltic Sea, the North Sea, North America and the United States Caribbean Sea. Shell Marine intends to be ahead the game to help customers with innovative grades that meet the new industry requirements.

The offshore industry represents a key growth area for SMP. “From large tension-leg platforms, like the Shell Mars Tension Leg Platform, to anchor-handling vessels and tugboats, we have a wide variety of products and services to meet the needs of the offshore industry,” Culton says.

Solving Problems
“It’s not just about recommending an oil change. It’s about helping our customers optimize the operations onboard,” insists Culton, adding, “We use unique tools and dedicated service to help monitor wear and most efficient operations, improving safety margins in terms of pre-warning for equipment failure. Our Shell Rapid Lubrication Analysis provides ship managers and operators critical information on the condition of their machinery and the performance of their lubricants. It’s about having the right products, for the right customer, with reliable customer service and exceptional technical support. It’s a great job and I love what I do.” For Shell customers, that means: problem solved.

(As published in the November 2014 edition of Marine News -

Other stories from November 2014 issue


Marine News

Marine News is the premier magazine of the North American Inland, coastal and Offshore workboat markets.