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when work matters



Contents P r o f e s s i o n a l M a r i n e r     O c t o b e r / N o v e m b e r 2 0 1 9

Towing 14 Hawaiian night run swell stuff for Young Brothers tug crew BY CASEY CONLEY

14 Trends & Currents 37 Market grows for monitoring as operators look to squeeze fuel savings BY ALAN R. EARLS


8 Industry Signals 4 ‘Unprecedented’ flooding idles


barges, raises dredging concerns

6 Inspection reveals open lifeboat problems, but ban still not in sight

8 Hands-free mooring now fully deployed at Seaway locks

10 Great Lakes pilot rates rise by double digits for fifth year in a row

12 IMO pushes for gender equality, but progress slow for women at sea



40 Autonomous ships in the US: What’s next, and is your job at stake?


A Mariner’s Notebook 48 Put accent on respect, courtesy for effective communication at sea






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This magazine is printed in the U.S. Professional Mariner is published in February, March, April, May, June, August, September, October and December, with an annual special issue of American Tugboat Review in July and an annual special issue of American Ship Review in November for $29.95 per year by Navigator Publishing LLC, 58 Fore St., Portland, ME 04101. Periodicals postage paid at Portland, Maine, and additional mailing offices. Postmaster: Please send address changes to Professional Mariner, P.O. Box 461510, Escondido, CA 92046. Copyright © 2019 by Navigator Publishing LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any way without written permission from the publisher. Multiple copying of the contents without permission is illegal. Call 207-822-4350 x219 for permission. Subscription rate is $29.95 for one year (nine issues) in the U.S. and its possessions. Canadian subscription rate is $44.95 U.S. funds. Other foreign service is $49.95 U.S. funds. Overseas airmail is $94.95 U.S. funds. Multi-year discounts are available, call 866-918-6972 for details. Distribution: Newsstand distribution, domestically and internationally: Coast to Coast Newsstand Services LTD., 5230 Finch Ave. East, Suite 1, Toronto, ON M1S 4Z9. Phone (416) 754-3900; fax (416) 754-4900. Contributions: We solicit manuscripts, drawings and photo­graphs. Please address materials to Editor, Professional Mar­iner, P.O. Box 569, Portland, Maine 04112-0569. Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee the safe handling of all contributed materials.


Professional Mariner October/November 2019

Contents P r o f e s s i o n a l M a r i n e r     O c t o b e r / N o v e m b e r 2 0 1 9

20 20 193 dives later, World War II wreck gives up its dangerous cargo  BY BILL BLEYER

26 Maritime Casualties 26 NTSB faults Navy oversight, training in fatal McCain collision 28 Casualty Briefs 30 Mariner dies aboard Military Sealift Command ship near Bahrain 31 Tugboat captain dies after falling overboard near Nome 33 Improper lookout cited in open-water collision near Long Island


35 Dredge contractor’s ‘ineffective oversight’ linked to pipeline explosion

Vessels at Work 24 Narragansett’s new fireboat built to handle every hazard


By Brian gauvin

ON THE COVER Capt. Steven Nicoulin takes charge as the crew lets go of the lines aboard the steamer Natchez for a cruise on the Mississippi River at New Orleans. Constructed in 1975, it is one of two steam-powered sternwheelers left on the river. Natchez is powered by engines built in 1925 for the towboat Clairton, which moved steel on the Monongahela River. Photo by Brian Gauvin




Signals Courtesy Derek Hoeferlin Design

Barge tows navigate the floodwaters of the Mississippi River near downtown St. Louis, Mo., on June 3. Snowmelt from the upper Midwest and heavy rain throughout the spring slowed or halted river traffic throughout the region for months.

‘Unprecedented’ flooding idles barges, raises dredging concerns s rivers in the U.S. heartland return to normal levels, there is A rising concern that federal money set

aside for dredging won’t go nearly far enough. The American Waterways Operators (AWO), a trade group representing tug and barge operators, is urging Congress to approve emergency dredging funds. The organization notes that most of the money set aside for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers


this current fiscal year is already allocated. Lynn Muench, senior vice president of regional advocacy for the AWO, said that could leave insufficient resources to address siltation and other problems stemming from record-setting floods.  “Part of the next challenge is going to be dredging,” she told Professional Mariner. “Obviously the silt has been moved around and it has to be dredged. The Mississippi,

Illinois, Arkansas and TennesseeTombigbee all need significantly more dredging than they normally would.” Just how much more dredging, and how dire the situation is across these vital inland waterways, will be better known once river levels fall. How fast they fall, Muench said, could determine how urgently the dredging is needed and where it is needed most. “If all of a sudden the Mississippi

Professional Mariner October/November 2019

River falls 3 to 4 feet a day, we are going to need a lot more dredging,” she said in late July. “If it falls more slowly, the river can do some scouring of its own channel and we won’t need as much.” Pam Vedros, spokeswoman for the Army Corps’ Mississippi Valley Division in Vicksburg, Miss., said the Rock Island District already has received some supplemental money for dredging after running out in the spring. The district covers 314 miles of the Mississippi River and 268 miles of the Illinois Waterway and their tributaries. Rivers in some parts of the U.S. started rising last October and continued through the winter and spring, driven by seasonal snowmelt and rainy, wet weather. Vast stretches of the Mississippi and its tributaries became impassable, either because locks were overcome or currents were too dangerous. Lock closures on the Upper Mississippi River were in place for 98 days, from March 16 through June 23, according to the Army Corps. Parts of the Illinois River were closed for nearly 50 days, and similar restrictions were in place on the Missouri, Tennessee and Arkansas rivers at times during the spring months.  The 2018-19 season was the sixth in the past 11 years with moderate to major flooding, Vedros said. The Army Corps has spent more than $150 million since October on flood response operations that included levee patrols, sandbagging and channel dredging. In some sectors, she noted, these activities continued as of early August. 


“The duration of this flood event is unprecedented, and because of that drawing comparisons to previous events is quite challenging,” she said in an email. “The Corps will continue its evaluation during our post-flood recovery efforts, and more refined information will be available upon completion.”

Now that the (Mississippi River) is open again, the bigger hurdle we are facing is trying to match those barges and rail cars up again. It’s kind of like moving a watermelon through a snake.

Dennis Wilmsmeyer, executive director, America’s Central Port

Industries affected by the flooding are still working on a detailed accounting of their own losses stemming from the high water. Muench hesitated to place a dollar value on the effects, which damaged crops, flood-control infrastructure, port facilities and vessels. She expects it will be “a very steep number.” “The cost to the nation is pretty significant,” Muench said. River closures mean barges can’t pass, so crops harvested by American

farmers often can’t get to market. Closures also delay the movement of fertilizers, chemicals and other products. Although barge tows have been running for weeks, the supply chain still hasn’t caught up. Traditionally, farmers haul crops to co-ops in trucks, from which they are sent by rail to inland ports and loaded onto barges for transit downriver. River closures that kept barges idle disrupted that finely tuned system, said Dennis Wilmsmeyer, executive director of America’s Central Port in Granite City, Ill., which moves more than $1 billion in goods every year.  “The problem was, for a month you had a major source of transportation — barges — basically tied up because the (Mississippi River) closed,” he said. “Now, there is such a backlog because there is high demand to get the product to the river.” “Now that the river is open again,” he added, “the bigger hurdle we are facing is trying to match those barges and rail cars up again. It’s kind of like moving a watermelon through a snake.” Wilmsmeyer expects the system will come back into alignment around Labor Day. He said that agricultural products delayed by high water should still make it to market, albeit later than usual.  By fall, more should be known about the extent of siltation along the Mississippi and its tributaries. It should also become clear by then whether additional money will become available for emergency dredging.  Casey Conley


industry signals

Inspection reveals open lifeboat problems, but ban still not in sight


yearlong U.S. Coast Guard inspection of 122 open lifeboats on 45 U.S.-flagged ships revealed numerous deficiencies. However, the service does not plan to mandate the removal of these boats from domestic vessels.

supports proposals from vessel owners and operators or legislation to accomplish this.” Zukunft also referenced a Coast Guard proposal from 1989 to retrofit all oceangoing vessels with enclosed lifeboats by July 1, 2001.

NTSB photo

When asked why the Coast Guard will not end the use of open lifeboats, spokeswoman Lt. Amy Midgett referenced the service’s final action memorandum on the 2015 sinking of the cargo ship El Faro. In the memo, released on Dec. 19, 2017, thencommandant Adm. Paul Zukunft wrote that “the Coast Guard agrees that open lifeboats should be phased out of operation and


The open lifeboats on El Faro were similar to those on sister ship El Yunque, shown undergoing an examination by National Transportation Safety Board officials in Jacksonville, Fla., eight days after El Faro sank. All 33 crewmembers aboard the cargo ship died when it flooded and capsized near the Bahamas on Oct. 1, 2015, during Hurricane Joaquin.

“However, due to cost-benefit and competitiveness concerns, and insufficient support at (the International Maritime Organization) for a similar U.S. proposal, the requirement was removed” from a final rule on the issue, he wrote. “The same limitations would prevent a current regulatory initiative from succeeding,” Midgett said. “As such, the (Coast Guard) continues to support non-regula-

tory strategies such as the concentrated inspection campaign (CIC) to achieve the same result. (The Coast Guard) has worked with many owners/operators to upgrade their lifeboats voluntarily.” As a result, open lifeboats are still allowed on U.S.-flagged vessels built before July 1, 1986. The Coast Guard does not have an updated cost estimate to replace all remaining open lifeboats, Midgett said. Modern, enclosed lifeboats were required in a 1983 amendment to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) regulations, which does not apply to U.S.-flagged oceangoing vessels on domestic routes. The Coast Guard’s yearlong inspection campaign to make sure open lifeboats are still serviceable ended May 1. It focused on recordkeeping, crew proficiency and the condition of lifeboats, according to the service. During the inspection, 68 problems were found on 35 of the 122 lifeboats. Deficiencies included visible cracks on the hull, wastage of davits, delamination and cracking on various components, inoperable winches, and oil leaks. Because of where some of the ships were moored, 14 of the 45 vessels could not launch, maneuver and recover every open lifeboat on board. These remaining boats must be launched later in front of a Coast Guard marine inspector. Open lifeboats will be inspected annually.

Professional Mariner October/November 2019

The safety of open lifeboats drew scrutiny during investigations of the sinking of El Faro, which had two open davitlaunched lifeboats. However, the feasibility of launching any lifeboat, open or enclosed, on El Faro during Hurricane Joaquin has been questioned. Because davit-launched lifeboats are located on the side of a ship, the degree of list is crucial. “Generally, when you get past 18 degrees of list, they’re impossible to launch,” said Capt. Jon Kjaerulff, business development manager at MITAGS-PMI, which specializes in maritime safety and emergency response training. “If you wait too long and the ship is listing beyond that, along the high side, gravity won’t work to take it down like it should, and on the low side, it’s hanging out too far to be able to board it.” At the time the El Faro crew was trying to deploy the lifeboats, the vessel was listing in excess of 15 degrees, and possibly 18 degrees, according to the Coast Guard’s Marine Board of Investigation report. The lifeboats were “designed to operate with a list up to 15 degrees with a fully loaded boat,” the board stated. Lawrence Brennan, a former U.S. Navy captain and a law professor at Fordham University, said that the cost of the lifeboats should not be a factor. With an enhanced, enclosed lifeboat, he said that mariners “have a chance. And that’s the difference. What’s the cost per lifeboat?”


Although industry members and insurers should be part of the rule change requiring enclosed lifeboats, it is ultimately up to the Coast Guard, Brennan said. “I think the Coast Guard needs

to assert leadership and not defer to parties who are regulated,” Brennan said. “The regulators should be the leaders. I mean, there’s no factual dispute.” David A. Tyler

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industry signals

Hands-free mooring now fully deployed at Seaway locks


ands-free mooring (HFM) technology, which uses vacuum pads instead of lines to hold ships in place as they transit locks, is now fully deployed throughout the St. Lawrence Seaway. In a June 6 announcement, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. (SLSDC) called HFM the most important technological advance on the Seaway since it opened in 1959. The vacuum pads each provide up to 20 tons of holding force. They are mounted on vertical rails inside the lock chamber wall to secure a ship as it is raised or lowered, keeping it a fixed distance from the wall. The last step in the lockage operation consists of releasing the vacuum and retract-

ing the pads so that the vessel can sail safely out of the lock. “Hands-free mooring will dramatically improve the vessel transit experience through the Seaway by enhancing safety and achieving greater efficiencies in freight movement,” said SLSDC Deputy Administrator Craig Middlebrook. The agency invested $23 million to install HFM at the Snell Lock and Eisenhower Lock. The project marked the first use of the technology on an inland waterway, according to the SLSDC, which said it has prepared its workforce with the skills necessary to implement the system.  “This new technology is a significant modernization of the St. Lawrence Seaway’s infrastructure, and will enhance workplace safety,

lower operating costs for carriers and decrease vessel transit times through the locks,” said Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. The SLSDC said full implementation of the HFM system was important to the future of the Seaway. Last year, there was a 7 percent increase in the number of vessels transiting the U.S.Canadian waterway. They moved 41 million tons of cargo, the most since 2007. On the northern side of the border, the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. (SLSMC) marked its 60th anniversary with the opening of the 2019 navigation season on March 26. The season’s first ship, the 650-foot bulk carrier Federal Kumano, loaded with titanium chloride, used HFM technology as it tran-

Courtesy SLSDC


Hands-free mooring technology has been installed at 13 locks on the St. Lawrence Seaway. The system uses vacuum pads mounted on vertical rails to secure a ship as it is raised and lowered in a lock chamber.

Professional Mariner October/November 2019

sited the St. Lambert Lock on its way to the Port of Ashtabula, Ohio. Andrew Bogora, spokesman for the SLSMC, said nine to 12 ships typically navigate each Seaway lock per day. Given that 13 locks are equipped with HFM, “we can estimate (the system) processes between 117 and 156 lock transits per day,” he said. The Iroquois Lock and Welland Canal Lock 8 are “low lift” locks and are not equipped with the technology. Bogora said HFM can reduce lock transits by up to seven minutes, with the potential for time

Hands-free mooring will dramatically improve the vessel transit experience through the Seaway by enhancing safety and achieving greater efficiencies in freight movement.

Craig Middlebrook, SLSDC deputy administrator

savings varying per lock. He said he was unaware of any problems with the implementation of the system. The St. Lawrence Seaway begins in Montreal and extends west, connecting the lower St. Lawrence River to the Great Lakes. The Seaway’s 15 locks (13 Canadian and two American) enable ships to climb 551 feet from sea level up to Lake Erie. During the past 60 years, ships have transported almost 3 billion metric tons of cargo while completing over 340,000 transits of Seaway locks. Michel Drouin

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industry signals

Great Lakes pilot rates rise by double digits for fifth year in a row


pilot rates on the Great Lakes rose 11 percent for the 2019 season under a new final rule from the U.S. Coast Guard. For the fifth consecutive year, the Coast Guard implemented

and maintain infrastructure,� the agency said in the rule. Ocean vessels operating in the Great Lakes must use a pilot from one of three U.S. pilot associations or a pilot from the two Canadian government pilot

For 2019, per-pilot hourly pay will range from $306 to $733, depending on the district, up from $271 to $653 last year. The rate increase will impact operators of about 255 vessels, whose payments will increase $2.8 million over the

Courtesy Chamber of Marine Commerce

a double-digit rate increase for pilotage costs that took effect June 10. The rate increase was 11 percent over the estimated costs for 2018, reaching $27.9 million for 51 pilots operating in three districts. In 2014, the estimated costs were $12.8 million for 36 pilots. “The Coast Guard believes that the new rates will promote pilot retention, ensure safe, efficient and reliable pilotage services on the Great Lakes, and provide adequate funds to upgrade


agencies. The Canadian pilots are government employees and are paid a government salary. The Coast Guard sets rates to allow the U.S. associations to generate revenue to fund their operations, including salaries, infrastructure needs and training. For 2019, a pilot’s target compensation for the nine-month shipping season is $359,887. The rate is calculated in a formula that incorporates the pay for masters of U.S.-flag lake vessels in 2015.

The Marshall Islandsflagged bulk carrier Federal Hunter departs the Port of Toledo, Ohio, in August 2017, bound for Lake Erie with soybeans for export. For 2019, hourly pay for U.S. pilots aboard oceangoing ships on the Great Lakes will range from $306 to $733.

$25.1 million paid in 2018. The final rule provides for 51 pilots: 17 in District 1 (St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario); 14 in District 2 (Lake Erie and Detroit/St. Clair rivers); and 20 in District 3 (Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, Lake Superior and St. Marys River). The rule also provides funds for training of new applicant pilots, including two in District 1, one in District 2 and four in District 3. The American Great Lakes Ports Association has filed suit

Professional Mariner October/November 2019

against the Coast Guard to overturn the latest ruling, said Steve Fisher, the group’s executive director. Previously, the AGLPA and other parties sued the Coast Guard to challenge the 2016 and 2018 rate settings. All three of the suits are awaiting action by the courts. “We believe the Coast Guard has developed rates that generate more revenue for the pilot associations than even the Coast Guard intended to,” Fisher said. Under the current system, there is no method of “truing up” or reconciling the revenue collected and the pilots’ actual expenses compared to the Coast Guard’s estimates. In previous years, the pilots reported they were underpaid, and recently vessel operators have overpaid, Fisher said. The associations’ financial reports are available three years later, so the 2016 information became available this year. “The vessel operators paid about $5 million more than even the Coast Guard intended because the agency had gotten the calculation that far off,” Fisher said. Canadian pilotage rates can be half the amount charged by the U.S. pilot associations. A ship may have Canadian and U.S. pilots on board while navigating the Great Lakes and pay widely varying fees for the same services. Fisher said it’s been challenging to get the Coast Guard or Congress to focus on the issue because the owners of foreign


vessels pay the higher U.S. pilot fees. However, those higher fees will be passed on to cargo owners, including American agricultural exporters and importers of various commodities.

“Ultimately, it’s American farmers and manufacturers who are going to pay for this through higher shipping rates,” Fisher said. Gary Wollenhaupt


industry signals

IMO pushes for gender equality, but progress slow for women at sea


few women who have made their mark in the maritime industry say the key to the field being more gender equal is making women more aware of all of the jobs it offers. “We need to do a better job of outreach so that all ashore and afloat jobs are seen as viable for women,” said Kathy Metcalf, who blazed trails as one of the first women to attend the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy back in 1974, then worked aboard ships in a variety of capacities.
 Metcalf, now president and chief executive officer for the Chamber of Shipping of America, said management needs to be committed to advertising and promoting jobs that will appeal to women as well as men. Metcalf and others are responding to a recent call by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for


The International Maritime Organization’s Day of the Seafarer campaign for 2019, with its hashtag #IAmOnBoard, links with the IMO’s World Maritime Day theme, “Empowering Women in the Maritime Community.”

all of those involved in the maritime world to declare their support for gender equality in seafaring. She said companies must realize “how it is in their best interest to have a diverse workforce,” and also give all employ-

ees training that equally prepares them for what can be a challenging lifestyle aboard a ship. Jennifer Carpenter, executive vice president and chief operating officer for the American Waterways Operators, agrees that “getting the word out about the broad range of jobs the industry provides” is paramount to achieving equality. “There are many more women in our industry than when I started my career in 1990, but the picture is mixed because much of that growth is shoreside,” Carpenter said. “It’s fantastic to see increased representation of women in all aspects of management — in operations, law, finance. But in afloat positions, it’s still very much a male-dominated profession.” Part of the reason is that there is not a lot of awareness about newer options available for seafaring careers, said Mayte Medina, chief

Professional Mariner October/November 2019

of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Maritime Personnel Qualifications Division. Not all jobs aboard ships require many months away from family and friends. Some have more traditional hours and days off that make them more attractive to women, especially those interested in being mothers as well, Medina said. Increasing women’s involvement in vessel operations also is challenging because “there’s trepidation being the only woman working on deck, of being the lone sister out there,” Carpenter said, noting that increasing the number of women in such roles will make it a more welcoming career path for others.


Relaxing some requirements — needing to work on deck for three years before advancing to another level, for example — also may be in order to make that possible, she said. While there still is much room for improvement, the gender split has been steadily moving toward equality, especially shoreside, Medina said. She noted that in 1993, at one of her first IMO meetings, “I had fingers left on one hand” when counting the number of women in attendance. Now, women make up about 45 percent of attendees at such meetings. Medina said companies are feel-

ing a lot more social media pressure to hire the best candidate, and she applauded the IMO’s emphasis on bringing more women into the industry. And women who have achieved success in seafaring — such as three female captains featured by the IMO in this year’s Day of the Seafarer campaign – are helping to narrow the gap by making companies aware of a “different pool they’ve never tapped before.” Medina said the Coast Guard is following suit, and it will be highlighting women and their ability to compete in an upcoming issue of one of its publications. • Patricia McCarthy


ATR Update


by Casey Conley

Hawaiian night run swell stuff for Young Brothers tug crew

Courtesy Jennifer Lim/Young Brothers


he overnight cargo run from Honolulu to Kahului, on the Hawaiian island of Maui, was more or less uneventful. The pre-dawn approach into Kahului Harbor was anything but. Ten- to 12-foot swells followed the tugboat Montana and deck barge Maka’ala into the protected harbor, battering them as they approached Young Brothers’ dock. Capt. Jeff Page maneuvered alongside the barge’s starboard hip, and with some difficulty the assist tug Mikiala II

Montana’s midFebruary run from Honolulu to Maui was one of its last for Young Brothers, which had chartered the z-drive from Hyak Maritime. At left, the deck barge Maka’ala is guided out of Honolulu Harbor.


got a line onto Maka’ala. Together, the two tugs guided the barge astern toward the berth on the harbor’s east side.   “The surge is amazing in here. We are getting tossed around like a cork,” Page said. “There is just a lot of swell in here today.” Some 36 hours earlier, a massive winter storm

rolled through Hawaii. Winds exceeding 60 mph tore roofs from houses, and huge waves closed beaches on Oahu’s North Shore. Higher elevations received a blanket of snow. The ocean remained unsettled for days, particularly in the notorious channels separating the islands. Even so, conditions

Professional Mariner October/November 2019

work making the tow. Makaio climbed onto Maka’ala to retrieve a line connected to the massive towing bridle. Using the Markey winch, crewmembers hauled the bridle out of the water and connected the 2.25-inch towing wire. Towing pins secured the wire in position. Page eased the barge off the dock with help from the tug Pi’ilani, operated

slowly paid out the towline about 100 feet at a time as the ocean deepened. Ultimately, about 1,800 feet of wire separated the tug and barge. “We use as much wire as we can. The more wire, the better,” Page explained, noting that the length helps reduce the load on the line. “The catenary is surge protection, so we are not surging on the wire.”

Some 36 hours earlier, a massive winter storm rolled through Hawaii. Higher elevations received a blanket of snow. The

couldn’t have been better the evening before as Montana prepared to get underway from Honolulu, on the island of Oahu, with six crewmen. Page was joined by first mate Ed Claunch, second mate Ryland Brown, chief engineer Drew Carr, cook/AB Moki Makaio and AB D.J. Ryan. After a dinner of freshcaught tuna, lasagna and garden salad prepared by Makaio, the crew got to


ocean remained unsettled for days, particularly in the notorious channels Casey Conley photos

Capt. Jeff Page, above, monitors the cargo barge during docking at Kahului, Maui, on a challenging February morning. At right, cook/AB Moki Makaio attaches a chafing block to the tow wire on Montana. The device prevents the wire from being damaged by friction with the towing pin table. The tow passes Matson’s container terminal, below right, on Sand Island on the outbound voyage from Honolulu.

separating the islands. by Foss Maritime, Young Brothers’ parent company. Pi’ilani took a position at Maka’ala’s port quarter and helped turn the 340-foot barge into the main channel. Hololulu’s compact harbor was quiet as the vessels passed Matson’s cargo terminal, the Aloha Tower lighthouse and downtown skyscrapers reflecting the setting sun.  Page brought the tow to 7 knots after reaching open water, and Claunch

Page took the first watch of the 93-mile voyage, guiding the vessels east-southeast at 9.6 knots. Seas were a relatively calm 2 to 4 feet as Oahu offered a lee from relentless swells that arrived the next morning. Within an hour, the sun had set and just a handful of lights were visible on the horizon. Roughly 13 miles ahead, another Young Brothers tug, Hoku Loa,


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appeared on the radar. The two tugs often meet at about this part of the voyage, one nearing home and the other just departing. Page steered to starboard to make his intentions known. The tugs passed port-to-port with about 1.5 miles between them. Given its location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii naturally gets most of its supplies by boat. Most cargo from the U.S. mainland arrives in Honolulu via Pasha or Matson ships, at which point it is separated and sent by cargo barge to neighboring islands. Young Brothers’ deck barges carry a diverse cargo from one island to another. Typical runs involve construction materials and equipment, personal vehicles and property, livestock, agricultural products and a smattering of other containerized cargo. The company serves each island at least once a week, while the cities of Hilo, Kahului and Nawiliwili have multiple weekly runs.  Hilo, at 24 to 30 hours from Honolulu, is the longest voyage and often one of the roughest — particularly in the Alenuihaha Channel between Maui and Hawaii, also known

as the “Big Island.” Kahului takes about 12 hours, give or take. Kaunakakai on Molokai is the closest destination, at about seven hours from Honolulu. Turnaround time varies, but crews typically have eight to 12 hours between

Several times the tug dove into a trough before the barge, causing the wire to rattle around. “She’s surfing,” Claunch said at one point as the barge rode high atop the swells. arrival and departure. Claunch, who lives in Florida and comes from a family of tugboat captains, returned to the wheelhouse at about 2000 to begin his watch. Aside from a few fishing boats and the occasional jet flying overhead toward Honolulu, the horizon was completely dark.

Professional Mariner October/November 2019

minutes ahead of schedule. The crew dialed back the engines to conserve fuel and avoid reaching Kahului well before the tug’s expected 0630 arrival. “It’s rare to get these conditions,” Claunch said. “Normally, we are getting tossed around pretty good.” The tossing started a few hours later during second mate Ryland Brown’s 0000-to-0400 watch. The tug encountered 10-foot seas landing on the port

Kauai Puuwai


Kaiwi Channel



Kalohi Channel

Pailolo Channel Kahului




P A C I F I C Pat Rossi illustration

“Usually all you’ll see is tugboats. Sause, Kirby, that’s usually all it is,” he said, noting the lack of recreational boats. “There is a lot of ocean and a lot of space.” The tug made good time as it approached the shallow Penguin Bank west of Molokai. The normally unsettled Kaiwi Channel between Oahu and Molokai was unusually calm, and so was the ride. Less than five hours into the voyage, Montana was already 90


side as the tow reached the eastern edge of the Kalohi Channel, which runs between Molokai and Lanai. The swells caused Montana to roll to star-




Ch ha





board, then dive into the troughs. Montana’s round trip to Maui was one of its last under charter to Young Brothers. The company

800-413-6351 commercialsales@northriverboats.com NorthRiverBoats.com




is replacing its older tugs with four Tier 4 Damendesigned tugboats, and Montana played an important role while those tugs were built. The crew was sad to see her go. Montana, based on a proven oceangoing design developed by Western Towboat, is spacious and comfortable, and with a six-person crew everyone got their own room. During its charter to Young Brothers, Montana

proved itself versatile and capable, particularly when trying to guide barges into tight landings on islands without an assist tug. The z-drives were another advantage in a fleet otherwise comprised of conventionally driven vessels. “It’s a great tug. It’s got a lot of power … and it makes good speed,” Page said. The 4-year-old vessel, built by JT Marine in Vancouver, Wash., has twin 3,000-hp GE

Casey Conley photos

First mate Ed Claunch, above, operates the Markey towing winch while docking the barge Maka’ala in Kahului on Maui. At right, the Foss Maritime tug Mikiala II, painted in Young Brothers livery, assisted Maka’ala into its berth on a rough February morning.


engines, Schottel z-drives and electrical power from John Deere/Kohler gensets. Markey supplied the double-drum towing winch and hawser winch on the bow. Sea conditions remained unsettled for the rest of the voyage as the tug encountered swells from the north. Brown guided the tow northeast through the Pailolo Channel west of Maui, then around the island’s rugged west side. Page returned to the wheelhouse at about 0345 for the final leg.  He slowed the tow to about 6 knots as the vessel came within three miles of Kahului Harbor. Meanwhile, Claunch started shortening the towline to avoid snagging reefs. At about this time, the 3,300hp Mikiala II came alongside in 12-foot swells and got a line on Maka’ala’s stern.  

Roughly 200 feet separated the tug and barge as the vessels entered the harbor, which faces north and is exposed to the northern swell. Several times the tug dove into a trough before the barge, causing the wire to rattle around and nearly escape the towing pins. “She’s surfing,” Claunch said at one point as the barge rode high atop the swells. Safely inside the harbor but still exposed to the swells, Page spun Montana to starboard and took position on the barge’s starboard hip. Mikiala II captain Alan Armstrong moved to the barge’s stern. Together, the two tugs backed Maka’ala stern-first into the landing. Crew from Mikiala II and Montana climbed onto the barge to serve as forward and aft lookouts. Claunch and Brown called out distances as the barge got closer to the dock. “Let’s not get too fast,” Page warned as the wind and swell continued unabated. A few minutes later, at 0630, crew announced the first mooring line was secured on Maka’ala. It was right on schedule, Page noted, down to the minute. •

Professional Mariner October/November 2019



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193 dives later, World War II wreck gives up its dangerous cargo


Crews aboard the ultra-light intervention vessel Shelia Bordelon, above, offload oil from the Coimbra wreck to the offshore supply vessel Jonathan Rozier in early July. The British tanker was torpedoed by a German U-boat off Long Island in January 1942, killing 36 mariners.

tion (DEC). For four years, the Coast Guard had been receiving satellite observation reports of a sporadic oil sheen on the Atlantic Ocean near the location of the

The undertaking was initiated by the Coast Guard, which established a unified command with the New York State Department of Environmental ConservaNEW





Block Island


d Islan Long





Rhode Island Sound

41° N

Location of Coimbra

Pat Rossi illustration


n one of the largest operations of its kind ever undertaken in the United States, a salvage contractor working with federal and state agencies has removed 476,000 gallons of oil from a leaking tanker sunk off Long Island by a German U-boat during World War II. The removal of the oil from the 423-foot Coimbra began in mid-May after it was determined that eight tanks still contained oil and one had a pinhole leak. The project, accomplished with the assistance of a 6,000-pound remotely operated vehicle (ROV), concluded in July.

by Bill Bleyer

N O RT H AT L A N T I C 74°


40° N

O C E A N 72° W

Professional Mariner October/November 2019

“The amount remaining in the vessel is very small and any sheening poses minimal risk to the local environment and no risk to the shoreline,” said Steve Lehmann, senior scientific coordinator at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Any further potential environmental impact will be monitored by NOAA. Eighty-three people, including up to 55 at a time employed by Florida-based Resolve Marine Group, were involved in the operation,

U.S. Coast Guard photos

6,800-ton, British-flagged tanker. It sank in three pieces in 180 feet of water 30 miles off Shinnecock, N.Y., after being struck by two torpedoes fired by U-123 on the morning of Jan. 15, 1942. Initial dive operations in May 2019 confirmed the tanker was leaking small amounts of lubricating oil from its initial 64,000-barrel cargo. “The (more than) 450,000 gallons removed from the Coimbra over the last three

months were a hidden threat to the health of Long Island’s marine fishery and the South Shore’s environment,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “The Coimbra now complements New York’s growing network of artificial reefs, which serve as an economic driver for the region’s diving and fishing industries.” www.professionalmariner.com

Coimbra was one of the many merchant vessels lost off the East Coast during what German submarine commanders referred to as the “Second Happy Time,” when Axis subs destroyed more than 600 Allied ships in eight months.

according to Collin Reichelt, a spokesman for Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound. The oil removal was done by the Resolve team, which included divers, a remote vehicle operator, oil sampler, marine biologist, marine archaeologist, naval architect, pump operator and cook. It took 193 dives to complete the mission, Reichelt said. Aaron Jozsef, deputy director of projects and the on-site coordinator for Resolve, said the hard-hat divers breathed a surfacesupplied helium-oxygen mix. They spent 60 to 80 minutes on the bottom, followed by 90 minutes of in-water decompression and 2.5 hours in a recompression chamber on the recovery vessel. “The ROV does a lot of prep work,” Jozsef said. “It did a lot of the hull cleaning, the thickness testing, and the visual observation and the monitoring for safety and environmental purposes. It also pre-staged equipment for our divers. The divers did the sampling and the prob-

A diver from Resolve Marine Group, above, drills into the hull of Coimbra in early May. The ship was en route to Britain from New York when it was attacked off Shinnecock, N.Y.


ing (and) drilled some of the holes.” Once on site, the first phase of the operation was assessment, “where we make our map of the entire wreck,” Jozsef said. “That was followed by a metal thickness analysis of the hull. Next, using historical information, we had to figure out where the frames and tank boundaries were. Then we had sampling, where we put a hole in the boat and were able to measure the total volume of oil in (each) tank. Then we prioritized which tanks had the most amount of oil.” Jozsef said samples from the tanks underwent laboratory analysis to make sure “there were no surprises

from a disposal standpoint.” “In this case, we had two different pumping evolutions,” he explained. “The first was lube oil, which is a lighter product that’s fairly stable. We used a surface22

submerged pump directly connected to the hull to pump the oil into our tanks. The second phase was the heavy fuel oil that we found, about 100,000 gallons or so. For that, we actually had to heat it using injected hot water and then used a bigger pump to pump it up into our tanks.” Jozsef said it could take up to several days to empty one tank, and there were almost two dozen tanks on Coimbra. “We removed the majority of what we could get,” he said. “You can’t quantify it because we didn’t know how much was there to begin with. You’re never going to get 100 percent of the oil, considering it was blown up

with two torpedoes and it’s a mass of metal on the bottom of the ocean (that is) not easy to get to.” Some of the oil burned off and some of it leaked out after the torpedoes hit, Jozsef

A 1975 assessment estimated the maximum remaining contents of Coimbra’s cargo tanks at 28,500 barrels. NOAA determined that a worstcase spill could have resulted in contamination at beaches from North Carolina to Cape Cod.

A diagram of the wreck site shows Coimbra in three pieces on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. The tanker’s cargo was stowed in nearly two dozen tanks.

said. The ship’s manifest said Coimbra was carrying 2.7 million gallons, and it was estimated that 1.2 million gallons remained for recovery. “We recovered just shy of half of what that estimate was,” he said. The oil was recycled at a state-approved facility in New York. “As far as I’m aware, this is one of the largest fuel removals ever conducted of a World War II wreck in the United States,” he continued. “And considering that we did it in just under 90 days, it was probably the most efficient as well.” Almost everything went according to plan, Jozsef said. One exception was that Resolve did not anticipate the volume of heavy fuel oil that was found on board. “That was probably the biggest engineering hurdle for us,” he said. “We had to pull into port in Philadelphia and in 10 days put together a heating recirculation and skimming system with an onboard boiler and storage system. That was the biggest technical challenge. We expected and planned for lubricating oil. We thought there was a potential for some heavy fuel oil, but surprisingly two tanks in the stern section and three forward all had fuel oil in them.” The fuel used for propulsion of the ship was thought to have burned up in the fire after the torpedo strikes.

Professional Mariner October/November 2019

A 1975 assessment of the wreck estimated the maximum remaining contents of Coimbra’s cargo tanks at 28,500 barrels. NOAA determined that a worst-case spill could have resulted in contamination at beaches from North Carolina to Cape Cod. Capt. Kevin Reed, commander of Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound, said the quickly dissipating sheens spotted in the tanker’s vicinity could have amounted to five to 10 gallons each on average. They would evaporate quickly in the wind, waves and sun, according to Matt Franklin, DEC director of emergency management.

Consultation assistance for the recovery operation was provided by the Navy Supervisor of Salvage and Diving; the Coast Guard’s Atlantic Strike Team, Salwww.professionalmariner.com

vage Engineering Response Team, and Office of Environmental Management; NOAA; and the state DEC. Coimbra was one of the many merchant vessels lost

Responders hold a memorial ceremony for the lost crewmembers of Coimbra, above, during oil recovery operations aboard Shelia Bordelon. Joshua Marks, left, of the Coast Guard’s Atlantic Strike Team tests oil recovered from the wreck. Crews removed 476,000 gallons of lubricating oil and heavy fuel oil.

off the East Coast during what German submarine commanders referred to as the “Second Happy Time,” when Axis subs destroyed more than 600 Allied ships in eight months. On the first day of the recovery project, there was a moment of silence to honor those who lost their lives on the tanker 77 years ago. Only 10 of the 46 crewmembers survived. The wreck is a favorite destination of offshore fishermen seeking tuna, shark, cod and other species. Well below recreational dive depth, it does attract a small number of technical wreck divers. • 23


At Work Narragansett’s new fireboat built to handle every hazard Story and photos


by Brian Gauvin

he swimmer, Lt. Ben Lonngren, reached into a crevice in the rocks and with repeated strenuous efforts dislodged Rescue Andy. He then muscled the mannequin into a Stokes basket and began the arduous swim across the 150-foot gap of choppy water to the bow ramp on the Narragansett fireboat Maia Stanton. Since taking delivery of the vessel in December, the Narragansett Fire Department has conducted rescue exercises, like the above scenario, and integrated the department’s marine division into the greater Narragansett Bay Marine Task Force. Lt. Patrick Walsh, head of marine operations, also has been training the marine crew to qualify as coxswains. In 2012, the department began the process of acquiring a fire/rescue boat and developing an all-hazards rescue team. Built by North River Boats of Roseburg, Ore., Maia Stanton was named in honor of a 14-year-old girl who drowned off the rocky Narragansett Bay shoreline while snorkeling in July 2015. Walsh said the fire depart24

ment responds to an average of one drowning annually. “We felt we had to do something to better serve the community,” he said. “The focus here is not desert or mountains. It’s water. We felt it was our duty to have a modern marine fire and rescue department to serve the seaside community.” The crew is trained in fire and rescue, and to detect and contend with CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive) threats. “Fire departments these days are misclassified by the public because of the term ‘fire’ in the designation,” Walsh said. An all-hazards designation would be more appropriate, according to the lieutenant, because whenever there is confusion as to which department should respond to an emergency, the fire department gets the nod.

The design of the boat focused on the need to maneuver a Stokes basket aboard and then get it inside the cabin. To that end, Walsh collaborated with North River to design and build a bow ramp for that purpose. They then allotted for enough width between the cabin and the gunwales to allow the crew to slide the basket around the cabin, through the aft door and onto the bench seat fitted with stabilizing straps. The 31-foot, deep-V aluminumhulled Maia Stanton is fast. At full throttle, its hull lifts out of the water and its two Yamaha 250-hp outboards propel the craft to 40 knots. Lt. Patrick Walsh mans the bow monitor on Maia Stanton, above, a recent addition to the Narragansett Fire Department. The newbuild from North River Boats was designed with a bow ramp for at-sea rescues. Professional Mariner October/November 2019

In the engine compartment forward of the outboards, a Darley HE 500 fire pump is coupled to a 130-hp Kodiak Vortec engine. A Task Force Tips Tornado monitor is mounted on the bow, and a Task Force Tips valve under monitor (VUM) system is at the stern. Both are manually operated. During the rescue of Andy, helmsman Lt. Scott McLaughlin was kept busy feathering the throttles back and forth to keep the boat in line with the swimmer and the basket. Walsh was at the bow hauling in the tether line while Lonngren swam the Stokes basket to the lowered bow ramp. With Walsh pulling and Lonngren pushing, they got Andy aboard. When asked how strenuous it was, on a scale of one to 10, to get the 200-pound rescue mannequin off the rocks, into the basket and back to the boat, Lonngren said, “I’d give it an eight.” •

Lt. Patrick Walsh, above left, straps Maia Stanton’s Stokes basket to the bench seat inside the cabin. Above, Lt. Scott McLaughlin, left, mans the helm as Walsh monitors the Raymarine electronics suite aboard the fireboat.


Owner/operator: Narragansett Fire Department, Narragansett, R.I. Designer/builder: North River Boats, Roseburg, Ore. Dimensions: L: 31’ B: 10’ D: 23” PROPULSION • (2) Yamaha F250XCA outboard engines, 250 hp each • Side-Power SE80/185T bow thruster • Imtra Zipwake dynamic trim control system • Maximum speed: 40 knots NAVIGATION/COMMUNICATIONS • Raymarine Axiom electronics suite: 12-inch screen display, radar, GPS, transducer, VHF radio, heading sensor • Whelen emergency lights and siren FIREFIGHTING • (2) Task Force Tips monitors • Darley HE 500 fire pump, 500 gpm • Kodiak Vortec 130-hp fire pump engine ADDITIONAL EQUIPMENT • FLIR M232 thermal imaging camera • Golight Stryker searchlights • Mini Rad-V radiation detector • Duramax fendering


A Kodiak Vortec engine, above, adjacent to the boat’s twin Yamaha outboards drives a 500-gpm Darley fire pump. A Task Force Tips Tornado monitor, above right, provides firefighting power from the bow. At right, the fireboat displays its power and maneuverability during a training exercise on Narragansett Bay. The newbuild has a top speed of 40 knots.


Casualties NTSB faults Navy oversight, training in fatal McCain collision


U.S. Navy photos


eck crew aboard USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) mistakenly believed the destroyer lost its steering before a collision near Singapore in 2017 that left 10 American sailors dead and 48 injured, according to U.S. investigators. In reality, a crewmember aboard McCain tasked with transferring thrust controls inadvertently transferred steering controls to an adjacent control station. The ship veered to port into the path of the chemical tanker Alnic MC while crew tried to resolve the issue. The collision occurred Aug. 21, 2017, at 0524 in the Singapore Strait about five miles from Horsburgh Lighthouse. The destroyer required $100 million in repairs, while the tanker sustained $225,000 in damage. No injuries were reported among the 24 crew on the tanker. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators identified myriad issues aboard McCain, including the decision to transfer thrust controls while in such a busy waterway, and the failure to notify nearby vessels by VHF radio of the ship’s loss of

control. Crew fatigue was another concern. In conclusion, the NTSB attributed the collision to “lack of effective operational oversight of the destroyer by the U.S. Navy, which resulted in insufficient training and inadequate bridge operating procedures.” “Contributing to the accident were the John S. McCain bridge team’s loss of situation aware-

The collision with the tanker Alnic MC breached the port-side hull of USS John S. McCain, flooding crew berths, machinery spaces and communications rooms. Ten sailors died in the accident on Aug. 17, 2017, in the Singapore Strait.

ness and failure to follow loss of steering emergency procedures, which included the requirement to inform nearby traffic of their perceived loss of steering,” the NTSB said in a 47-page report released in early August. Investigators added

Professional Mariner October/November 2019

USS John S. McCain is loaded onto the heavy-lift ship M/V Treasure on Oct. 11, 2017, to be taken to Navy fleet facilities in Yokosuka, Japan, for repairs.


being overwhelmed in the very busy waterway. Sanchez made that decision as the main helmsman was about to eat breakfast. Instead, this helmsman was asked to take the throttle controls in the lee control station next to the main helm station. A second watch stander sat next to him at the helm controls. Crew transferred the port throttle control to the lee helm station without issue at about 0520. The starboard throttle control remained at the helm station. Moments later, the perceived steering issue arose.  05:20:48 ~05:21

Helmsman reports “loss of steering”

Port engine control shifted to lee helm RPM: Port 87, Starboard 87 Heading: 230° Speed: 18.6 kts

“Although the crew had intended to transfer control of only the propellers to the lee helm, video footage … showed that, at 05:20:39, the mode of steering changed from backup manual to computer-assisted manual, and control of steering changed from the helm to the lee helm station,” the report said. McCain began turning to port as its rudders moved from 3 degrees starboard to 0 degrees. The turn accelerated after crew ordered the speed reduced to 10 knots. The port engine slowed to N


Steering shifted to lee helm







Starboard engine control shifted to lee helm





Steering shifted to aft steering


Steering shifted to helm


Port and starboard engines matched RPM: Port 38, Starboard 38 Heading: 184° Speed: 14.6 kts


Steering shifted to aft steering


Engine slowed RPM: 73 Heading: 227° Speed: 9.5 kts

05:23:58 John S. McCain and Alnic MC collide








RPM: 92 Heading: 227° Speed: 9.5 kts






Port engine slowed RPM: Port 44, Starboard 87 Heading: 212° Speed: 18.4 kts





NTSB/Pat Rossi illustration

that the ship was operating in a mode that “allowed for an unintentional, unilateral transfer of steering control.” The incident effectively ended the Navy career of John S. McCain’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Alfredo Sanchez, who in May 2018 pleaded guilty to negligence. In August 2019, officials announced that the Navy will replace touch-screen control systems on its destroyers with mechanical controls starting in summer 2020. “The design of the John S. McCain’s touch-screen steering and thrust control system increased the likelihood of the operator errors that led to the collision,” the NTSB said. The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, based in Japan, was sailing southwest at 18 knots on the morning of the incident en route to the Port of Singapore. Alnic MC also was heading southwest, but at a slower speed. Sanchez requested that two crewmembers helm the vessel, with one focused on throttle and the other on steering, to prevent one person from

Strait KEY:

Alnic MC John S. McCain Other shipping traffic at time of collision SCALE



1 nm


maritime casualties

44 rpm, but the starboard engine remained at 87 rpm. Steering control bounced back and forth between the wheelhouse and aft controls over 26 seconds starting at 0523. While in aft control, the rudder was briefly moved hard to port, further accelerating the ship’s turn toward Alnic MC. McCain’s wheelhouse crew got control of the steering system and moved the rudders to starboard less than a minute before the collision, but by then it was too late. 

A large red override button on the bridge control system that would have restored steering controls to the main helm station was never pressed. Crew did not fully understand how it worked, instead believing it sent steering controls to an aft station. The master aboard Alnic MC noticed McCain turning in the tanker’s direction but initially believed the destroyer would pass in front of his ship. He reduced speed to half ahead when a colli-

sion appeared likely, and the tanker struck the warship bow-first at about 9.5 knots. The vessels never communicated via radio before the collision. “When the vessels collided, the Alnic MC’s bulbous bow opened a 28-foot-diameter hole in the John S. McCain’s hull, above and below the waterline, resulting in significant structural and flooding damage to several spaces, including crew berthing,” the NTSB report said.


BRIEFS TSB: Rescue boat fell during drill due to incorrect rigging

enough working length for the

“hoist cable inclined to an angle

hoist cable to part,” the report

rescue boat to be hoisted back to

of approximately 45 degrees,


Deck 5. The painter became taut

came out of the davit sheave,

A rescue boat that fell from the

and pulled on the rescue boat while

and became pinched between

the ferry was replaced during a

ferry Queen of Cumberland in

the davit was hoisting it back up.

the top of the sheave flange and

vessel midlife upgrade in 2015-

the cable keeper.”

16. TSB investigators learned

Swartz Bay, British Columbia,

“The force on the rescue

The rescue boat davit aboard

injuring two people, wasn’t prop-

boat caused a side load on

erly secured, according to the

the hoist cable as the rescue

cable as the rescue boat con-

procedures were not updated

Transportation Safety Board of

boat continued to be hoisted,”

tinued to be hoisted caused

following these changes.

Canada (TSB).

the report said, adding that the

individual wires to break and the

“The pinching of the hoist

that maintenance and operations

“If changes in shipboard

Crew aboard the BC Ferries vessel were raising the nine-passenger rigid-hull inflatable boat when the hoist cable broke during a man-overboard drill. Two crewmembers and the boat fell roughly 36 feet into the water. One of the victims was seriously injured, while the other reported less severe injuries. TSB investigators found that the rescue boat painter line was secured to a ferry cleat without


A photo illustration from the TSB report shows the location of the rescue boat before it fell from Queen of Cumberland on April 18, 2018. Two mariners participating in the manoverboard drill were injured, one seriously.

TSB photo

on April 18, 2018, using a davit

Professional Mariner October/November 2019

Investigators learned fatigue likely affected many key personnel on McCain’s bridge. The lee helmsman reported he did not sleep the night before the collision, while the conning officer had three hours of sleep. Several other officers on deck had about four hours of sleep, while the commanding officer and executive officer had five hours and four hours of sleep, respectively, that they both described as “poor.” The average sleep for the 14 crew

in the wheelhouse was 4.9 hours in the previous 24 hours. Shifting watch schedules likely contributed to fatigue. “Following the accident, the Navy mandated ‘circadian watchbill’ schedules that followed set watch times each day,” the report said.  Since the incident, the Navy has undergone comprehensive training, maintenance and certification reviews, and a crew readiness assessment for ships like McCain based in Japan. The ser-

vice also has emphasized maritime skills and seamanship training for surface warfare officers. The NTSB recommended highlighting the importance of VHF radio use for Navy crews and aligning Navy sleep standards with international protocols. It also suggested additional training for helmsmen.  A Navy spokesman requested questions about the NTSB findings via email but did not respond to them by press time. Casey Conley

equipment are not managed

last year suffered a heart attack,

next hour. First responders were

he took medicine for Type 2

effectively and necessary

then fell onto the main deck of

delayed by the lack of a working


updates to maintenance systems

the ship. The fall caused serious

vessel to carry them to the ship.

and schedules are not made,

head injuries.  

They ultimately found a private

medical examination certifying

citizen to bring them to the

his fitness at sea roughly six

there is a risk that maintenance

Transportation Safety Board

The master underwent a

will be inadequate or overlooked,

(TSB) officials did not identify

bulker, arriving at about 0930.

months before his death. He did

resulting in failure of equipment

Sage Amazon’s master, who fell

By then, the master did not have

not disclose a prior heart attack

and/or injury,” the TSB said.

from an access ladder onto

a pulse.

or his diabetes medication on an

BC Ferries has implemented

the main deck on March 17,

Lifesaving efforts contin-

associated medical form.

several changes as a result of the

2018, at about 0735. The ship

ued throughout the morning

incident. Among them was a fleet-

was anchored in the Gulf of St.

as Canadian Coast Guard and

not have access to full medical

wide assessment of rescue davits

Lawrence three nautical miles from

other first responders arrived.

information and records, fitness

and a new rule barring crew from

Port-Daniel-Gascons, Quebec.

Sage Amazon lacked an auto-

for duty may not be assessed

being inside rescue boats when

mated external defibrillator

accurately, increasing the risk

they are raised or lowered. The

was heard and the master was

(AED) for use during cardiac

of seafarers endangering them-

company also called for better

seen lying unconscious on the

emergencies. Responders with

selves, the vessel, the crew and

training for launching and recover-

main deck. The back of the mas-

an AED also arrived that morn-

the environment in a medical

ing rescue boats.

ter’s head was resting on the

ing but did not begin defibrilla-

emergency,” the TSB said.

save-all, and his hard hat was

tion, the TSB report said.

Master had heart attack before fall aboard bulker Canadian authorities said the

“At 0735, a muffled sound

“If medical practitioners do

lying on the main deck beside him,” the report said.

The master was declared

that the lack of an AED on

dead at a shoreside hospital at

board the ship hindered the

1420. An autopsy showed he

crew’s ability to provide ade-

master of a Liberia-flagged bulk

and CPR on the master, whose

died from a heart attack. It was

quate lifesaving treatment.

carrier who died in an accident

condition worsened over the

not his first, and testing showed


Crew performed first aid

The agency further noted

Casey Conley


maritime casualties

Mariner dies aboard Military Sealift Command ship near Bahrain


where the Navy’s 5th Fleet is located. A spokesman for the 5th Fleet referred questions about the incident back to the MSC, a branch of the Navy. Perry declined to discuss specifics about the incident due to the ongoing investigation.

An MH-60S Seahawk helicopter maneuvers toward USNS Cesar Chavez during a resupply mission in the Pacific Ocean in 2014. An AB died in an accident on the deck of the ship on July 26.

Crowe, from Holiday Island, Ark., was a veteran mariner in the MSC fleet, with more than 11 years working for the military transportation provider. Cesar Chavez is a Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ship in the MSC’s Naval Fleet Auxiliary Force. Lewis and Clark-class ships provide logistics support and supplies such as ammunition to American warships. The vessels also have the capacity to offload fuel. Officials have not specified exactly where Cesar Chavez was at the time of the incident involving

U.S. Navy photo

he U.S. Navy is investigating a “workplace incident” that resulted in an American mariner dying aboard a Military Sealift Command (MSC) ship operating in the Arabian Sea. Brian Francis Crowe, 56, an AB on the dry cargo ship USNS Cesar

Chavez (T-AKE-14), died while working on deck. The incident occurred July 26 at about 1000 local time, according to Wayne Perry, an MSC spokesman. “The ship was underway and there was a mishap, and he ended up dying and that is being investigated,” Perry told Professional Mariner. Cesar Chavez was operating near Bahrain at the time,


Crowe, or what mission the ship was supporting. “In this case, I do not believe they were far (offshore),” Perry said, noting that Crowe’s body was immediately disembarked from the ship after the incident. It is not clear if he was pronounced dead aboard Cesar Chavez or at a shoreside medical facility.  The MSC is conducting the Navy’s investigation into the incident. However, Perry said the service has already shared details about the situation internally to prevent similar injuries. Once the inquiry has been completed, which could take weeks or months, he expects details will be released to share lessons learned from the tragedy.  Crowe was the second mariner to die aboard an MSC ship within a month. On June 27, boatswain’s mate Martin Anthony, 51, died after falling 25 feet while working aloft on the dry cargo ship USNS William McLean (T-AKE-12). The ship was at Detyens Shipyard in Charleston, S.C., undergoing routine maintenance, MSC spokeswoman LaShawn Sykes said. The local coroner determined that Anthony, a Guyana native and a civil service mariner with the MSC since late 2015, died from blunt force trauma to the head. That case also remains under investigation by the MSC, and few additional details were available. Casey Conley

Professional Mariner October/November 2019

Tugboat captain dies after falling overboard near Nome


Crew aboard the 126-foot, 4,960-hp Polar Ranger, assisted by an unidentified good Samaritan boat, pulled Whitemarsh from the water 10 to 15 minutes after he fell overboard. State and federal author-

Ranger was a licensed master for the vessel and acted as captain until relief crew arrived. Whitemarsh had a long maritime career and was well known on the Seattle waterfront. Those who knew

ities were not sure if he was wearing a personal flotation device. “The ocean temperature in Norton Sound is quite cold, and the survival rate for people without a survival suit is often measured in minutes,” Marsh said. Crew performed CPR on Whitemarsh aboard the tugboat during transport to shore. Lifesaving efforts continued there while they awaited paramedics. He was taken to Norton Sound Regional Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.  The state medical examiner’s office conducted an autopsy, which Marsh said is standard procedure for this type of incident. The cause of death was not available at press time, and the troopers’ investigation was still open. Foul play is not suspected.  Another crewman aboard Polar

The captain of Polar Ranger fell into Norton Sound while trying to board a container barge that the tug was towing, according to the Alaska State Troopers. The mariner was recovered 10 to 15 minutes later but could not be revived.

Courtesy CuxHans/Fleetmon.com


he captain of an oceangoing tugboat died after falling between the tug and a barge while the vessels were transiting off Nome, Alaska. David Whitemarsh, 56, of Kelso, Wash., fell into the frigid waters of Norton Sound at about 0750 on July 4. He was working aboard the Dunlap Towing vessel Polar Ranger, which was towing the 380-foot container barge Pacific Trader.  Nobody on the tug saw the captain fall in, said Ken Marsh, spokesman for the Alaska State Troopers, which responded to the incident. The vessels’ exact location relative to Nome’s small port could not be confirmed.  “He went overboard and it was not directly witnessed,” Marsh said. “But what was reported to the trooper is that it appeared he fell in while trying to board the barge from the tug.”
 The Coast Guard confirmed that Whitemarsh fell between the two vessels. The service is investigating the incident but has not determined the cause, spokeswoman Amanda Norcross said.  Forecasts for July 4 in Nome called for drizzle and temperatures in the upper 40s. Wave heights averaged 2 to 3 feet during the six-hour period in which the captain fell overboard, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration buoy near Nome. Water temperatures in Norton Sound, an inlet of the Bering Sea, were in the low 50s at the time. 

him described him as a well-respected veteran captain. According to his LinkedIn account, he worked as a captain and crewman on commercial fishing vessels before joining Sause Brothers towing company as a chief mate from July 1997 to August 2007. It is not clear when he joined Dunlap Towing. Tugs operated by Dunlap, of La Conner, Wash., make regular runs between Seattle and several Alaskan ports, often with a container barge in tow. Dunlap Towing officials did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the incident. Casey Conley


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Professional Mariner October/November 2019

maritime casualties

Improper lookout cited in open-water collision near Long Island


ederal investigators determined crew aboard both vessels that collided last year in open water south of Long Island, N.Y., contributed to the incident that caused more than $700,000 in damage. The tanker Tofteviken and shrimper Polaris collided May 12, 2018, at 1913 in the Atlantic Ocean 30 miles south of Montauk, N.Y., in calm weather and 10 miles

tanker’s third mate missed ample opportunity to change course and never alerted the master about the developing close-quarters situation, investigators said. Neither mariner hailed the other vessel over radio.
 “(The) probable cause of the collision … was the failure to maintain a proper lookout by the mate on the fishing vessel, and the failure to identify the risk of collision by

U.S. Coast Guard photo

An outrigger on Polaris opened a 40-foot gash in Tofteviken’s port side above the waterline. A ballast tank was breached, but it was empty at the time, according to the NTSB report. No cargo tanks were damaged.


KEY EVENTS: 1858 Third mate on Tofteviken radios AB to stand as lookout

1912 9.3 kts 1910 9.5 kts

1907 Distance between vessels decreases to 1.8 miles

1907 9.2 kts

1910 Distance between vessels decreases further, to 0.8 miles 1912 Tofteviken heading changes to starboard (according to ECDIS) 1913 Collision

1912 1910 12.2 kts 12.2 kts

1913 Collision

1901 Polaris about 3.5 miles away from Tofteviken

NTSB/Pat Rossi illustration

of visibility. Polaris was traveling north-northeast toward New Bedford, Mass., and Tofteviken was headed west toward the Ambrose Anchorage near New York City. According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the mate aboard the shrimper was cleaning the wheelhouse in the time preceding the collision and occasionally checking his surroundings. The

the third mate on the tanker,” the NTSB said in its report. The 91-foot Polaris, owned by O’Hara Corp. of Rockland, Maine, had reached its scallop quota and was heading back to its New Bedford base. The mate was alone in the wheelhouse at the time of the incident, with the autopilot set and the shrimper making 10 knots. It was apparently common practice to clean the vessel before arrival, thus saving time at the dock. The 820-foot Tofteviken, registered in the Bahamas and operated by Wallem Ship Management, was en route from Nova Scotia to Linden, N.J., with a cargo of crude oil. The third mate on watch first noticed Polaris on radar at about 1855 when the shrimper was eight miles away. A few minutes later, she asked an AB on duty to come to the bridge to serve as a lookout. 

Track of Polaris

1907 12.0 kts

Track of Tofteviken


1901 9.4 kts 1858 9.8 kts


1 mile


maritime casualties

Tofteviken’s third mate, and later the AB, believed the fishing vessel changed its heading to starboard to safely pass behind the tanker. However, the third mate never acquired Polaris on the ship’s automatic radar and plotting aid, which would have given her the closest point of approach and other details. Investigators later determined Polaris maintained a steady heading during this time and never turned to starboard. The third mate and AB continued to monitor Polaris as the two vessels moved closer together. About 12 minutes after the first radar sighting, Polaris was 1.8 miles off the tanker’s port side and closing. Tofteviken’s master and mate were in the wheelhouse handling other tasks and were not notified about Polaris until the chief engineer entered the room. Tofteviken was making about 12 knots.  The engineer “noticed the Polaris at close range on the port bow and shouted to the third mate, ‘What are you doing?’” the report said. “Upon hearing the chief engineer, the master stood up from the computer, went forward where he saw the Polaris, and immediately ordered hand steering and hard to starboard. He also directed the second officer to sound the ship’s whistle.” The mate aboard Polaris was oblivious to the unfolding situation as he polished levers on the aft-facing control station. He last looked out the windows and checked the radar about 15 minutes before the collision, and he didn’t recall when he last checked the automatic identification system (AIS). 


The mate aboard Polaris was oblivious to the unfolding situation as he polished levers on the aft-facing control station. He last looked out the windows and checked radar about 15 minutes before the collision. Proper lookout Non-navigational routines should never interfere with the primary task of a watch stander or a bridge team member to maintain a proper lookout. Should performance of another task or duty be necessary, an extra lookout should be posted.

Early communication Early communication can be an effective measure in averting close-quarters situations. The use of VHF radio can help to dispel assumptions and provide operators with the information needed to better assess each vessel’s intentions. National Transportation Safety Board

He heard a “bing” as Polaris’ port-side outrigger hit the tanker’s hull. He then recalled seeing a “wall of green” in front of the shrimper. “The mate attempted to turn the vessel to starboard, but it was too

late; the bow of the Polaris struck the port side of the tanker,” the NTSB said. Under international collision avoidance rules, Polaris was the “give way” vessel as the tanker and shrimper approached one another. That means it was required to take early, obvious action to avoid the collision, the report noted. When it did not take the appropriate action, it then fell to the stand-on vessel, Tofteviken, to avoid a collision. “However, despite the fishing vessel’s constant bearing and decreasing range, the third mate took no action,” the NTSB said. “At a minimum, the third mate could have attempted to contact the fishing vessel, either by VHF radio to ask their intentions, or by sounding a signal to warn the Polaris of their proximity.” Investigators also found that the third mate on Tofteviken did not follow standing orders to notify the master if any vessel comes within two nautical miles. “(Had) she followed the master’s standing orders,” the report said, “this accident could have been avoided.” Polaris required repairs to an outrigger as well as its main deck and bow, which crumpled in the collision. The outrigger opened a 40-foot gash in Tofteviken’s port side above the waterline and below deck. Total property damage from the collision was $716,047. No injuries or pollution were reported. Neither O’Hara Corp. nor Wallem Ship Management responded to emails seeking comment. Casey Conley

Professional Mariner October/November 2019

Dredge contractor’s ‘ineffective oversight’ linked to pipeline explosion


U.S. Coast Guard photo taken from video


he dredge Jonathon King Boyd was positioned over a natural gas pipeline in Matagorda Bay, Texas, when its crew noticed bubbles coming from the water. The vessel’s port spud had inadvertently punctured the buried gas line. “As the crew prepared to move the dredge and as the leverman was raising the port spud, a geyser of gas and water — 35 to 40 feet high by crew accounts — erupted from the stern of the vessel,” the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said in its investigation report.  “Shortly thereafter,” the report continued, “fire erupted near the stern of the dredge port side. All 10 crewmembers were accounted for.”  The incident occurred April 17, 2018, at 2014 about 1.5 miles offshore from Port O’Connor, Texas. It caused a massive fire that destroyed the 130-foot dredge as well as its 400-hp tender, Bayou Chevron. Total damage to the vessels exceeded $5.5 million, while the gas pipeline owned by Genesis Energy required $1.7 million in repairs.  NTSB investigators learned that supervisors at dredge owner RLB Contracting of Port Lavaca, Texas, failed to notify crew about the pipeline near their worksite.  “(The) probable cause of the fire aboard the cutter suction dredge Jonathon King Boyd was RLB Contracting’s failure to inform the crew about utilities in the area due to ineffective oversight, which led

to dropping a spud onto a buried submarine pipeline, causing natural gas to release and ignite,” the NTSB said. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hired RLB Contracting to remove nearly 250,000 cubic yards of sand in the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. Much of that material was moved through 8,000 feet of pipeline for a nearby beach replenishment project in Port O’Connor. The project was part of a multioption contract awarded by the Army Corps to dig the channel 14 to 16 feet deep. Crew aboard the dredge relied exclusively on a software program to identify and monitor hazards in the places they worked. NTSB investigators determined that shoreside personnel with the company never uploaded Army Corps maps showing the pipeline across the channel they were dredging. The result was that crewmembers did not realize they were positioned atop a pipeline.  “(Although) nautical charts …

Jonathon King Boyd is engulfed in flames after striking a natural gas pipeline in Matagorda Bay, Texas, on April 17, 2018. All 10 crewmembers escaped, but the dredge and its tender were destroyed. Accident damage exceeded $7 million.

kept in the lever room and crew galley marked the pipelines in the area, the crew did not use them during dredging (because they did not provide the level of detail needed for dredging operations), nor was there any company policy to do so,” the NTSB said. Investigators determined RLB Contracting also failed to contact the Texas Notification System as required before starting on that section of the dredge project. “RLB Contracting relied on a single shoreside individual (the production engineer) to carry out appropriate notifications and to input the data for the vessel software, which, in this instance, led to a single-point failure,” the NTSB said in its report.  Dredging operations were underway as expected on the day


maritime casualties

of the incident. The leverman used anchors on the port side and starboard side to control the dredge and the cutter head’s sweeping motion. A single spud on either the port or starboard side would then be dropped to serve as a pivot point. Alternating between port and starboard spuds allowed the dredge to “walk” a few feet before starting a new pass, the report explained. Jonathon King Boyd advanced this way under control of the night leverman when crew spotted bubbles at the stern about 90 minutes before the fire started. Crew could not smell gas in the 10-mph winds, and they initially believed the dis-

charge pipe had ruptured. The mate examined the line and determined there were no issues. He later asked whether any pipelines were nearby. “The leverman and engineer went to the galley to look at the nautical charts, where they discovered a charted submarine pipeline at their location,” the report said. “They informed the captain, who then ordered the mate and deck hand … to pick up the anchors and move the dredge away from that location.” That process was just getting started when the gas geyser erupted at Jonathon King Boyd’s stern. Crew smelled gas and gathered at the

muster station on the main deck forward when the gas ignited. All 10 crewmembers escaped to the towing vessel First State, which was nearby carrying a spare discharge pipe. The fire burned well into the night, and salvage crews confirmed nearly a day later that the blaze was fully extinguished. During the fire, the dredge tender Bayou Chevron also caught fire and became adrift. It was recovered aground more than eight miles from Jonathon King Boyd. Both vessels were destroyed.  Attempts to reach RLB Contracting for comment on the NTSB findings were not successful. • Casey Conley

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Professional Mariner October/November 2019

trends & currents

Courtesy FuelTrax

Market grows for monitoring as operators look to squeeze fuel savings by Alan R. Earls



uel and engine monitoring is a growing tool to help vessel operators improve efficiencies. Often, emissions reduction is a side benefit. While hardware is ultimately central to the systems, the software aspects have seen most of the recent developments. By strengthening their view of operational performance, companies can more accurately evaluate fuel use, improve accounting and inventory control, and dictate better throttle management. An unspoken problem that monitoring systems can help address is pilfering of fuel supplies, and accurate monitoring also can be useful in detecting and assessing leaks and spills. According to a recent report from ResearchAndMarkets.com, the marine engine monitoring market had an estimated value of $508 million in 2018. The report projects that it will grow to $656 million by 2025, in large part due to the increase in international seaborne

Ruben DeLeon, product support director for FuelTrax, explains the features of the company’s FuelNet automated reporting system. It tracks fleetwide data and the past performance of vessels to help operators better manage costs.

trade and the rise in demand for deliveries of “smart” engines. Significant growth in the near future also will be driven by factors such as a rise in usage of inland waterways, and technological innovations in marine propulsion systems. A factor potentially restraining market growth, according to the report, is the lack of common data standards in the industry. One of the leading purveyors in the monitoring market is Texas-based FuelTrax, which offers systems with a wide range of capabilities. Among them is FuelNet Generation 5, a data processing network that helps vessel owners customize their analysis and incorporate weather information that is time-stamped and linked to vessel location. Launched 15 years ago, FuelTrax began life as a custom project for Kirby Corp., one of the nation’s most prominent inland waterway operators. Kirby wanted to bet37

trends & currents

for performance. The anonymous database will allow FuelTrax users to evaluate how their vessels are operating compared to other users. FuelTrax displays data in easyto-understand ways so that users are able to comprehend it in seconds. The net result, according to Cantu, is that customers usually achieve a fuel savings of 6 to 10 percent. “It is like a gym membership — the more you use it, the more you will get out of it,” she said, adding that a typical return on investment (ROI) is achieved within six months. Among the other companies vying for market share is Louisianabased Sentinel Marine Technology, which offers monitoring systems that handle data collection, display and recording of each vessel’s engine fuel consumption, as well as a comparison to historical data. The system also generates customizable reports. Stand-alone sensors monitor the fuel consumption of individual engines and can interface directly with the engine control

ter measure fuel consumption on its pushboats. Control Dynamics International (CDI), an engineering company, delivered a solution. Only later did CDI recognize that Kirby’s problems were far from unique, leading the monitoring provider to spin off Nautical Control Solutions (NCS) in 2006 to further develop what it had designed. Victoria Cantu, head of business development at FuelTrax, said it was a fortunate move as interest in the marine sector grew for digital tools to better manage operations through data and automation. Cantu said the company’s products are in use on more than 500 vessels worldwide. Making the most of all of the data from all of those vessels, Cantu said the company is sifting through the information to create benchmarks Blueflow Onboard, from Swedish startup Blueflow Energy Management, integrates with other ship systems and flow meters to monitor fuel consumption and other parameters in real time. The information is sent to Blueflow Online for reporting, analysis and verification. 38

Courtesy Blueflow Energy Management

An unspoken problem that monitoring systems can help address is pilfering of fuel supplies, and accurate monitoring also can be useful in detecting and assessing leaks and spills.

module for vessels so equipped. The company also offers a wide range of products for monitoring other marine equipment. Blueflow Energy Management, a recent startup based in Sweden, has deployed its systems on several vessels in Europe to record and analyze fuel consumption and generate reports. The Blueflow system can integrate with flow meters and other onboard equipment to provide real-time monitoring. Pennsylvania-based CMR Group offers a number of monitoring products, including a system that can calculate fuel usage from diesel pressure and temperature parameters and then plot the results visually. The company said this approach eliminates the need for measurement systems based on fuel mass flow meters. The technology can be integrated with a vessel’s automatic supervision system through a secure Ethernet or TCP/IP connection. Additional sensors can be added when needed. Historical data, remote monitoring

Professional Mariner October/November 2019

and troubleshooting, and custom reports are also available with the CMR product. Maretron, which recently merged with Carling Technologies, offers engine monitoring

gas and diesel fuel monitoring instrumentation is in the works and should be available in several months. Other companies in the marine engine monitoring market include

Courtesy Maretron

products that can be set up to provide alerts and alarms, and they can be customized as required. The company also provides fuel flow monitoring that helps identify optimal settings to achieve fuel savings. According to Kip Wasilewski, director of sales at Florida-based Maretron, the company’s fuel monitoring solutions can evaluate tank levels and speed, and provide data logging in addition to keeping an eye on consumption. In addition, he explained, Maretron user interface products can calculate miles per gallon, DTE (distance to empty) and range when the vessel is outfitted with the appropriate sensors. FloScan, another notable market participant, was bought out last year and is currently under new ownership. A new line of marine www.professionalmariner.com

Maretron’s N2KView Mobile software allows operators to remotely monitor and control vessel systems from a smartphone or tablet. Fuel flow monitoring helps identify optimal settings to achieve savings.

ABB (Switzerland), AST Group (United Kingdom), Caterpillar (U.S.), Cummins (U.S.), Emerson (U.S.), Hyundai Heavy Industries (South Korea), Jason Marine Group (Singapore), Kongsberg (Norway), MAN Diesel & Turbo (Germany), Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (Japan), NORIS Group (Germany), Rolls-Royce (U.K.) and Wartsila (Finland). Despite the number of companies in the market, increasingly complex management challenges on the water likely mean there is still room for growth. “What we are seeing clients focus on more is not just data or automation, but the quality and accuracy of the data,” Cantu said. “They are not just interested in data but information that will tell them how to improve operations.” • 39


by Capt. Marc Deglinnocenti

Autonomous ships in the US: What’s next, and is your job at stake?


U.S. Navy photo

magine all sorts of merchant ships plying the oceans and bays without any crew on board. They’re not ghost ships like Mary Celeste, but they might as well be as far as some maritime careers are concerned. Different types of maritime autonomous surface ships (MASS) are here, and more are coming soon. Many countries see them as a way to increase the safety and efficiency of commerce while reducing pollution. Some nations have already enacted MASS laws for their own waters, but the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is still studying the regulatory issues for global waters. One of the delegates to the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) is Swedish representative Henrik Tunfors. He recently reported that the MSC has adopted a carefully measured approach regarding international MASS regulations. The panel has divided

MASS into four categories, and it has launched a scoping exercise to identify areas of concern. The next step is to research each of those areas in detail with additional multiple studies. Then, the MSC will decide which recommendations to bring forth for the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS).

COLREGS stipulates that potential changes should be made every four years. The COLREGS year of 2020 will be much too soon for ratification by IMO member nations because studies and discussions will still be ongoing at that time. COLREGS 2024 is the soonest possible year for ratification by the international body, but 2028 probably will be the year that the new MASS regulations are ratified and go into effect. The IMO is more Courtesy MarAd/Capt. Marc Deglinnocenti


Artificial intelligence maneuvering systems “are quite mature enough now to handle every possible collision scenario,” says Richard Balzano, MarAd’s deputy administrator. The technology was tested in January on the U.S. Navy’s Sea Hunter, which navigated from San Diego to Hawaii and back without a single crewmember on board.

MarAd’s Richard Balzano, right, “gave as good as he got” during an interview with Capt. Marc Deglinnocenti, left, at the Autonomous Ship Technology Symposium in Amsterdam in June. The author questioned the deputy administrator about the rise of uncrewed ships and whether the technology could jeopardize merchant mariner jobs.

Professional Mariner October/November 2019

concerned about getting it right the first time than pushing for changes too soon. Many countries aren’t waiting that long, though, and they are enacting their own MASS regulations. You can argue that the primary force driving MASS is to eliminate jobs in order to save money, but it’s hard to argue against the safety numbers. About 77 percent of all vessel collisions involve human error; the remainder are due to mechanical failures. If humans are replaced with artificial intelligence maneuvering (AIM), you have advanced computer systems to avoid collisions, and you also get precision courses and

Automation is nothing new to ships at sea. As an example, an autopilot is commonly used by today’s mariners. … Humans will still be in the loop for a long time to come.

Richard Balzano, U.S. Maritime Administration

throttle controls as a bonus. That saves fuel and therefore helps the environment. Many governments have mandates about saving the environment, and some — Belgium, the Netherlands and Norway among them — have already amended their local laws to allow for MASS. MASS in the United States is a serious subject that will affect merchant mariner jobs. There are a lot of rumors floating around about MASS testing here, but I wanted concrete answers for our professional mariners. I contacted the U.S. Department of Transportation and was directed to the Maritime Administration (MarAd).


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After some lengthy negotiations, Deputy Administrator Richard Balzano agreed to meet me in Amsterdam at the 2019 Autonomous Ship Technology Symposium for an exclusive interview about MASS in the U.S. Here is an excerpt of the discussion. Deglinnocenti: What are the primary missions of MarAd? Balzano: One of the main missions is to maintain a strategic


If MASS is developed correctly, it can improve the safety and efficiency of the maritime industry. I also foresee some great cost reductions for MASS owners and operators, all while reducing carbon footprints.


Richard Balzano

sealift capability for the United States. Just one example of that is having a Ready Reserve Fleet. We actively promote mariner education through our maritime academies and other schools and courses, and we also heavily invest in our U.S. maritime transportation system and its infrastructure. Deglinnocenti: In what ways do you see foresee MASS enhancing or detracting from those missions? 42

Professional Mariner October/November 2019

Balzano: If MASS is developed

correctly, it can improve the safety and efficiency of the maritime industry. I also foresee some great cost reductions for MASS owners and operators, all while reducing carbon footprints. Deglinnocenti: Would you agree that regardless of how popular MASS becomes, a well-trained and experienced supply of merchant mariners will still be vital to the smooth flow of seaborne com-

ages. Do you think MASS will have an overall negative effect on future maritime careers, or is there room for both MASS and shipboard personnel? Balzano: There will always be room for both MASS and a merchant mariner workforce. Besides, it will be many years before fully autonomous merchant vessels are perfected and internationally legalized. If any shipboard jobs are phased out during that long

Courtesy Robert Allan Ltd.

merce, and for national security? Balzano: Absolutely yes. MASS may reduce some skilled positions in some areas, but we still need experienced people with those skill sets. Even though we might have to refocus some of our workforce, those basic individual skilled merchant mariners are still needed and valued by MarAd. Deglinnocenti: Many current and future professional mariners want to know how MASS will be affecting their careers. Some workers fear losing their jobs to MASS, while some vessel owners and operators see MASS as a way to combat future workforce shortwww.professionalmariner.com

Maritime autonomous surface ships (MASS) will soon include vessels that go beyond commerce. Naval architects at Robert Allan Ltd. are working with technology specialists at Kongsberg to develop the RALamander, a remotely operated fireboat that will allow responders to more safely and aggressively attack port fires.

stretch, they will be replaced by phasing in more shore-based maritime jobs. Deglinnocenti: Does MarAd have any specific proposed laws regarding MASS that it would like to see ratified by member nations of the IMO? Balzano: Not at this time, because the Maritime Safety Committee’s regulatory scoping exercise is not nearly finished. However, we are carefully monitoring the IMO regulatory situation. Deglinnocenti: The U.S. Coast Guard has sent Rear Adm. John Nadeau to London to be the U.S. representative on the Maritime

Safety Committee. Is MarAd currently working with the Coast Guard on MASS safety and security, and do you get any updates from Nadeau? Balzano: Yes, I’ve been in contact with him as well as other U.S. Coast Guard personnel. We are also communicating with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Navy. We have been contacting them to initiate meetings about MASS, and they have initiated meetings with us. Deglinnocenti: Since MarAd has an Office of Maritime Security that deals with threats such as piracy, terrorism and cyberattacks, does it see MASS as being particularly vulnerable to these threats due to a lack of crew on board? Balzano: Cyberattacks are a huge concern for MarAd and many other agencies. The Navy is the most proactive combatant of potential cyberattacks, so we’ve been working with them and learning a great deal about OPCON (operational control) for MASS. This help from the Navy means that MASS will be far less vulnerable than originally thought. Deglinnocenti: Some marine companies are promoting rudimentary artificial intelligence maneuvering (AIM) systems for MASS. Do you believe that currently available AIM systems are sufficient to avoid collisions in all possible scenarios? Balzano: Yes. I’ve seen some very sophisticated AIM systems at work, and they are quite mature enough now to handle every possible collision scenario. The Navy’s AIM system on the 43

correspondence Sea Hunter MASS test platform did very well crossing the Pacific Ocean. Canada and MarAd also worked together testing a MASS vessel. That AIM system successfully guided itself up the St. Lawrence Seaway without incident. It involved many complicated and constant AIM calculations and executions in some heavy traffic areas with draft constraints to consider too. Of course, it depends on the AIM product. Deglinnocenti: Considering that some AIM systems have a long way to go yet, how do you feel about the fact that American merchant mariners on U.S.-flag ships will soon be interacting with

foreign unknown AIM systems in international waters? Balzano: Our mariners can deal with it. Fully autonomous ships are coming — it’s just a matter of time. Our professional mariners, both (domestic) and international, are currently using their own and dealing with other vessels’ more primitive degrees of AIM right now. Automation is nothing new to ships at sea. As an example, an autopilot is commonly used by today’s mariners. It’s one of the many autonomous forerunners of MASS. Humans will still be in the hart_13h 3/20/07 6:50 loop for a long time to come. Deglinnocenti: Concerns have been voiced by some in the indus-

try about MASS incidents in the middle of the ocean with very little traffic around. Those concerns include the risk of shipboard fires, hacking into AIM systems, mechanical breakdowns, piracy and other unauthorized boardings at sea. Do you think that fully autonomous U.S.-flagged merchant vessels will ever be crossing large stretches of international water? Balzano: Yes, someday, but there has to be a fundamental shift in the way we build ships. There have to be more redundant systems, because there won’t be PM Page 1on board to repair failed someone equipment. We will also have to monitor MASS much more closely

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Professional Mariner October/November 2019

and constantly from remote shore control centers. We are not there yet, but we need to go there. Deglinnocenti: The international treaty that requires mariners to render aid to those in need at sea might be severely compromised by MASS. How do you think that legal and moral conflict might be resolved? Balzano: We are a long ways off before that. A human will be on board or in a control center in the case of fully automated vessels at first. These remote control centers can monitor radio distress calls and pick up other distress signals via cameras. MASS can then be diverted to vessels in distress. Even

aerial drones can fly over to people in the water to drop ring buoys or other lifesaving devices. Unmanned vessels with robotic arms can even pluck unconscious or injured victims from the water. Some of that technology is already here. With the future of maritime careers on the line, I pressed MarAd’s deputy administrator hard for answers. Balzano gave as good as he got, with the interview becoming a bit animated at times. He revealed a great deal about the future of MASS, maritime careers and MarAd’s attitude toward the new technology. Some careers will remain the same, some will be

Become a member of the Council of American Master Mariners and join us in supporting the U.S. Merchant Marine, the Jones Act and Seaman’s working rights.

eliminated and some will be modified. One thing is certain, though: MASS is coming to the United States. • Capt. Marc Deglinnocenti is a maritime technical writer who recently served as a panelist at a forum on autonomous vessels at the Ship Operations Cooperative Program (SOCP) Spring Summit, held at the STAR Center in Dania Beach, Fla. His sea time dates to 1974 in a wide variety of roles on sailboats, conventional and tractor tugboats, training ships, barges, warships, cargo ships, passenger vessels and research vessels. He can be reached by emailing oldarmada@gmail.com.

Dann Ocean Towing, Inc .



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continued from page 48

telling you a story about it. Mike, a first engineer on a research vessel, had a knack for making complicated engineering ideas seem logical, so even non-engineers like myself could follow along and understand. Each of these mariners admitted that they were not “naturals” when it came to good communication; it had taken effort and practice to develop the verbal skills they had. Like most merchant mariners, I did not enter the profession as a great communicator. Progressing from deck hand to being a senior ship’s officer, I learned enough from my wife (a junior high math teacher), my friends and my shipmates to develop my own verbal communication techniques on the job. As a “people person,” I always make it a point to get to know my shipmates. Knowing a bit about where a person is coming from enables me to understand how best to verbally convey my message to them clearly and cogently. When I have to speak with someone on board, my first rule is to not let my emotions get the better of me, and to never get into a verbal confrontation. In fact, before uttering

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a word, I take a deep breath, think about and focus on what I want to say, gear my comments specifically to the person, and then afterward ask if there are any questions. It took a long time, lots of practice and some learning from my mistakes, but the efforts to improve my verbal communication skills

Lucy, a chief mate on a tanker, gave verbal instructions during cargo operations that were perfectly clear, succinct and delivered in a way that never made you feel she thought you were slow on the uptake — even if you were. have definitely made things go more smoothly over the years. Any mariner can improve their communication skills, and there are many good books on the market that can help. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is a classic. A number of DVDs on effective

verbal communication are also available for those who prefer visual learning. Mariners who are serious about mastering good verbal skills on their career track may even consider attending a seminar. I know a port engineer who went to an “Improving Verbal Communication for Business” seminar in the city where he lives. That $149 investment helped him improve his skills, which he asserts were instrumental in his successful transition from a seagoing to a shoreside marine engineering professional. At sea, our lives and the safety of the vessel could depend on good, clear communication. So do yourself a favor. Take a bit of time and effort to develop your verbal communication skills. You will be surprised at how all aspects of your life may change and improve. Till next time, I wish you all smooth sailin.’ • Kelly Sweeney holds a license of master (oceans, any gross tons), and has held a master of towing vessels license (oceans) as well. He sails on a variety of commercial vessels and lives on an island near Seattle. You can contact him at captsweeney@ professionalmariner.com.


A Mariner’s Notebook

by Capt. Kelly Sweeney

Put accent on respect, courtesy for effective communication at sea


was working on a gasoline tanker running between Tampa, Fla., Lake Charles, La., and Corpus Christi, Texas, when a new third mate joined our ship. He appeared quiet and shy by nature, and had graduated a few weeks earlier from an East Coast maritime academy. From what I observed during his first few days aboard, he was sharp and serious about his work. One night while we were underway, I came up to relieve him for watch. I was looking over the chart and night orders in the chartroom, which was separated from the wheelhouse by a door; maybe he didn’t notice I was there, because this quiet, shy third mate was cussing and yelling at the AB on his watch for making bad coffee and leaving streaks on


the wheelhouse windows after he cleaned them. By the time I opened the chartroom door and came onto the bridge to do the changeover, he had reverted back to his seemingly quiet, reserved self. Not long after that incident, rumors about the new third mate began making the rounds on the ship. I got the latest from the AB on my watch, who told me that during docking at the refinery in Corpus Christi, “one minute the mate was as cheerful and pleasant as a Walmart greeter, the next minute something set him off and he launched into a tirade, throwing his gloves down on the deck and screaming at the AB on the winch.” The captain was a good guy who treated everyone with respect and courtesy. So it did not surprise me that the third mate’s “Jekyll and Hyde” verbal skills got him run off the ship after only about a month on board. I never saw his

name on the company officer roster again. There is no getting around it. Whether it’s sharing a two- or threeperson stateroom, a fire drill exercise in full turnout gear with the whole crew, or eating every meal at communal tables, life on a commercial vessel demands that everyone on board has to interact with every one else on board — no exceptions. In other words, as the third mate found out the hard way, effectively communicating with your shipmates is a necessity. Verbal communication, according to experts, is much more than just words spoken by one person to another. It is an interaction, by word of mouth, between the sender of information and the receiver of it. From the sending side, it turns out that it is not just what is said that matters, but how it is said as well. The tone, the facial expressions and the loudness of the voice — all of these factor

into the sender’s side of verbal communication. The receiver’s side of the equation involves listening, comprehending and responding to the information received. The basics of verbal communication are easy to learn and understand, but mastering the techniques in real life is a whole different matter entirely. I have been lucky in my maritime career to have sailed with a few men and women who were great communicators, excellent examples of people who had the gift of being able to convey something in a way that just worked on every level. Lucy, a chief mate on a tanker, gave verbal instructions during cargo operations that were perfectly clear, succinct and delivered in a way that never made you feel she thought you were slow on the uptake — even if you were. Vern, the boatswain on a containership I sailed on as a cadet, could teach anything by continued on page 47

Professional Mariner October/November 2019

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Professional Mariner - October/November 2019  

Professional Mariner - October/November 2019

Professional Mariner - October/November 2019  

Professional Mariner - October/November 2019