China Annoyed with U.S. Admiral

By Reuters 2015-07-20 23:01:25

A top U.S. Navy admiral said he joined a routine surveillance flight over the disputed South China Sea on Saturday, drawing a stern rebuke from China which said such activities seriously damaged mutual trust between the two countries.

Admiral Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, confirmed at a press roundtable in Seoul on Monday that he had been aboard the seven-hour flight of a Boeing P-8 surveillance plane, but gave no specific details about the flight.

In May, Beijing called a P-8 surveillance flight carrying a CNN team over the South China Sea “irresponsible and dangerous.”

Swift said his flight was routine, like the earlier CNN flight, and did not say if China responded to Saturday’s patrol.

“We have forces deployed throughout the region to demonstrate the United States commitment to freedom of navigation,” said Swift, adding the flight allowed him to see “first-hand” new operational capabilities in the fleet.

Swift said communications with China at sea were “positive and structured”. “They’re normalized, if you will,” he said.

China’s Defense Ministry said it hoped the U.S. did not choose sides in the dispute and that it was “resolutely opposed” to U.S. surveillance flights, though did not say if it warned his aircraft away.

“For a long time, U.S. military ships and aircraft have carried out frequent, widespread, close-in surveillance of China, seriously harming bilateral mutual trust and China’s security interests which could easily cause an accident at sea or in the air,” the ministry said in a statement sent to Reuters.

In a separate statement, China’s Maritime Safety Administration warned ships not to enter waters to the east and southeast of Hainan Island from July 22 to July 31 due to military exercises. It gave no other details.

China has almost finished building a 3,000-metre-long (10,000-foot) airstrip on one of its artificial islands in the disputed Spratly archipelago of the South China Sea, according to satellite imagery of the area.

Beijing claims most of the South China Sea, with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and others holding overlapping claims.

Washington has demanded China halt land reclamation and militarization of the disputed area and to pursue a peaceful resolution according to international law.

China stepped up its creation of artificial islands last year, alarming several countries in Asia and drawing criticism from Washington.

Beijing says the outposts will have undefined military purposes, as well as help with maritime search and rescue, disaster relief and navigation.

“There are forces of instability at play in the region, and that’s generating uncertainty,” said Swift, without giving details.

“I wish I had a crystal ball that I look into the future and see. I am concerned about the forces of destabilization that appear to be more current here in the theater,” he said.

“And that’s what I hear from my friends in the region as I communicate with them … The lack of certainty – the growing uncertainty of those countries in the region.”


U.S. Coast Guard: 225 Years of Defense Readiness

By MarEx 2015-07-20 20:54:04

by Christopher Havern

For 225 years, the Coast Guard has served as the nation’s lead Federal maritime law enforcement agency, protecting our shores each and every day. The Coast Guard also serves as one of the nation’s five armed forces, assisting in the defense of our nation during times of war.

The U.S. Coast Guard and its predecessor, the Revenue Cutter Service have participated in or supported every major American military conflict since the Constitution was ratified. Soon after the legislation was passed to build the first 10 revenue cutters, cutters were called into military action. As these Revenue Cutters continued to engage in military operations, their role became solidified.

Various legislative acts throughout the late 1790’s formalized their role, giving the president to mobilize the fleet of cutters to assist in the defense of the coastal regions. Most notably, legislation directed that the cutters shall, at the discretion of the president, “cooperate with the Navy of the United States, during which time they shall be under the direction of the Secretary of the Navy…”

Quasi-War with France (1797-1801)

During this conflict, eight cutters operated along the southern coast and in the West Indies. Eighteen of the 22 prizes captured by the United States between 1798 and 1799 were taken by cutters unaided, and revenue cutters also assisted in the capture of two more. The cutter Pickering alone made two cruises to the West Indies and captured 10 prizes.

War of 1812 (1812-1815)

The revenue cutters distinguished themselves during the War of 1812. The first capture of a British vessel was by a revenue cutter. One of the most hotly contested engagements in the war was between the cutter Surveyor and the British frigate Narcissus. Although Surveyor was eventually captured, the British commander commended her commander and crew. The cutter Vigilant captured the British privateer Dart. Vigilant pursued the privateer and caught it coming up alongside. An armed party boarded Dart and took her as a prize.

Cutter Vigilant fought and captured the British privateer Dart off Block Island on October 4, 1813. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Seminole Wars (1836-1842)

Eight revenue cutters supported U.S. Army and U.S. Navy operations against the Seminoles, who refused to submit to U.S. authority. Duties performed by these vessels along the entire coast of Florida included attacks on war parties, breaking up rendezvous points, picking up survivors of Seminole raids, carrying dispatches, transporting troops, blocking rivers to the passage of Seminole forces, and the dispatch of landing parties and artillery for the defense of settlements.

Mexican War (1846-48)

Revenue cutters were integral in assisting the Navy in the conduct of its principal missions, conducting amphibious landings and blockading the coasts. Five shallow-draft cutters engaged in amphibious operations and distinguished themselves particularly at Alvarado and Tabasco.

Civil War (1861-65)

The first naval shot of the Civil War was fired by Cutter Harriet Lane when it challenged the steamer Nashville with a shot across its bow in Charleston harbor. Harriet Lane also participated in the capture of Hatteras Inlet. The principal wartime duties of Union cutters were patrolling for commerce raiders and providing fire support for troops ashore.

Spanish-American War (1898)

The Revenue Cutter Service rendered conspicuous service during the war. Revenue Cutter McCulloch, was part of Admiral Dewey’s force at the Battle of Manila Bay and was later employed as his dispatch boat. Eight cutters were also constituents of Admiral Sampson’s fleet blockading Havana. In the action off Cardenas on May 11, 1898, Revenue Cutter Hudson sustained the fight against Spanish gunboats and shore batteries side by side with USS Winslow. When half of Winslow’s crew had been killed, Hudson rescued the torpedo boat from certain destruction.

World War I (1917-1918)

With the declaration of war against Germany on April 6, 1917, a coded dispatch transferred the Coast Guard to the operational control of the Navy Department. During World War I, the Coast Guard continued to enforce regulations governing anchorages and vessel movements in American harbors.

The Espionage Act of June 1917 gave the Coast Guard the authority to protect shipping from sabotage and safeguard waterfront property. The term “captain of the port” was first used in New York and this officer was charged with supervising the safe loading of explosives. Similar posts were established in other U.S. ports.

In August and September 1917, six Coast Guard cutters left the United States to join U.S. naval forces in European waters. They constituted Squadron 2 of Division 6 of the patrol forces of the Atlantic Fleet and were based at Gibraltar. They escorted hundreds of vessels between Gibraltar and the British Isles, as well as escort and patrol duty in the Mediterranean. Coast Guard officers also held other important commands during World War I including vessels, air stations, and training installations. Coast Guard Cutter Tampa distinguished itself during the war.

On the evening of September 26, 1918, however, Tampa was sunk by UB-91 which reported sinking an American warship fitting Tampa’s description. One hundred-fifteen, 111 of whom were Coast Guard personnel, perished. This was the largest loss of life incurred in combat by any U.S. naval unit during the war. More than 8,000 Coast Guard men served the nation during World War I.

A Coast Guard-manned LCVP from the USS Samuel Chase disembarks troops of the U.S. Army’s First Division on the morning of June 6,1944 at Omaha Beach. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

World War II

Following the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939, the Coast Guard carried out extensive patrols to enforce American neutrality. With Greenland’s incorporation into hemispheric defense on April 9, 1941, the Coast Guard became the primary service responsible for patrolling that area. On September 12, Coast Guard Cutter Northland seized the Norwegian trawler Buskoe, marking the first captured vessel of World War II. On November 1, 1941 the Coast Guard was ordered to operate as part of the Navy.

With the December 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. was officially at war and the Coast Guard played a vital role in the ultimate victory. Coast Guard patrolled the waters off Greenland and Coast Guard-manned warships served as convoy escorts, sank enemy submarines, and helped win the Battle of the Atlantic.

Coast Guard personnel manned amphibious ships landing U.S. Army and U.S. Marine forces in European and Pacific theaters. Coast Guard coastal picket vessels patrolled the coasts while armed Coast Guardsmen patrolled beaches and docks. More than 230,000 men and 10,000 women served in the Coast Guard during World War II. The Coast Guard manned 351 naval ships and craft and 288 Army vessels in addition to 802 cutters.

Almost 2,000 Coast Guardsmen were decorated, including Douglas A. Munro, who received the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions as Guadalcanal. With the war won, the Coast Guard returned to the Treasury Department on January 1, 1946.

Korean Conflict (1950-1953)

During the Korean War, the Coast Guard performed a variety of tasks. These included establishing air detachments throughout the Pacific to conduct search and rescue, re-commissioning Navy destroyer escorts to augment the fleet, and establishing additional weather stations in the Pacific for communications and meteorological services.

Domestically, the Coast Guard also ensured port security and proper ammunition handling. A team of Coast Guard cadre also helped establish the Korean Coast Guard, which has since evolved into that country’s Navy.

Coast Guard Cutters begin the journey to South Vietnam from the Philippines, July, 1965. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

War in Vietnam

The Coast Guard was asked by the Navy to provide shallow water craft and crew needed for inshore, interdiction operations. The Coast Guard sent 26 82-foot cutters to Vietnam, forming Coast Guard Squadron One. The cutters spent some 70 percent of their time underway inspecting vessels and craft for contraband, intercepting and destroying enemy craft and providing fire support for friendly forces.

While the 82-foot cutters patrolled inshore, larger cutters helped form a deepwater barrier against infiltration. For this task, the Coast Guard established Squadron Three. It consisted of high endurance cutters on 10-month deployments. Thirty high endurance cutters served on this duty between 1967 and 1971.

The Coast Guard also assisted the Army with Explosives Loading Detachments while the Coast Guard Port Security and Waterways Detail traveled throughout Vietnam inspecting ports and harbors for security and safe storage of hazardous materials. The Coast Guard also set up and operated a long range navigation system in Southeast Asia in order to assist the U. S. Air Force with precision navigation.

Coast Guard buoy tenders in the Pacific also made periodic trips to Vietnam installing and maintaining buoys and a Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Detail was set up in Saigon.

With more than 300 merchant ships engaged in the sealift of materiel to Vietnam, the Coast Guard Merchant Marine Detail was called upon to resolve merchant seaman problems and ensure that these ships sailed on schedule. Coast Guard pilots flew combat search and rescue with the Air Force under an inter-service exchange program. In the end, though little known, some 8,000 Coast Guardsmen served in Vietnam.


On March 7, 1984, in an effort to define the national defense role for the Coast Guard, the Secretaries of the Navy and Transportation signed a memorandum of agreement establishing Maritime Defense Zones, MDZs, on the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts. On August 4, 1986, Commandant Paul Yost issued a policy which stated that the MDZ Commands and the Coast Guard have inter-related roles in the coastal defense of the United States.

Desert Storm/Desert Shield

With the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on August 1, 1990, the Coast Guard was again called to perform military duties on a large scale. On August 17, 1990, at the request of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Transportation and the Commandant of the Coast Guard committed Coast Guard law enforcement boarding teams to Operation Desert Shield.

A total of 10 four-person teams served in theatre to support the enforcement of U.N. sanctions by the Maritime Interdiction Forces. President George H. W. Bush, on August 22, 1990, called up selected reserve members to active duty in support of Operation Desert Shield.

Three port security units, consisting of 550 Coast Guard reservists, were ordered to the Persian Gulf. A total of 950 Coast Guard reservists were called to active duty. Other reservist duties included supervising vessel inspection and loading hazardous military cargoes.

On September 15, 1990, the Secretary of Transportation and the commandant committed the first-ever deployment of a Coast Guard Reserve port security unit overseas, Port Security Unit 303. On April 21, 1991, a Tactical Port Security Boat of PSU 301, stationed in Al Jubayl, Saudi Arabia, was the first boat in the newly reopened harbor of Mina Ash Shuwaikh in Kuwait City.

A Coast Guard small boats sits in New York Harbor after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centers on Sept. 11, 2001. Coast Guard assets were among the first responders following the attack. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

9/11 and Beyond

Coast Guard units from Activities New York were among the first military units to respond provide security and render assistance with the attacks of September 11, 2001. In answer to the terrorist threat and to protect our nation’s coastline, ports and waterways, six U.S. Navy Cyclone-class patrol coastal warships were assigned to Operation Noble Eagle on November 5, 2001. This was the first time that U.S. Navy ships were employed jointly under Coast Guard command.

In the aftermath of the attacks, President George W. Bush proposed the creation of a new Cabinet-level agency, eventually named the Department of Homeland Security. The Coast Guard was foremost among the agencies that constituted the new department. On November 25, 2002, President Bush signed HR 5005, creating the Department of Homeland Security, and the Coast Guard officially transferred to the newly created department on February 25, 2003.

As a prominent member of the new department, Coast Guard units deployed to Southwest Asia in support of the U.S.-led coalition engaged in Operation Iraqi Freedom early in 2003. At the height of operations, there were 1,250 Coast Guard personnel deployed, including about 500 reservists. This included two large cutters, one buoy tender, eight patrol boats, four port security units, law enforcement detachments and support staff to the Central and European Command theaters of operation.

To do this day, Coast Guard units remained deployed throughout the world and conduct joint operations in support of the most critical needs of combatant commanders for a variety of national defense missions. Throughout the service’s 225-year history, it has always remained Semper Paratus to support the defense of our nation and will continue to do so for generations to come.

The opinions expressed herein are the author’s and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.


P&I Club Warns on Sulfur Rule Penalties

By MarEx 2015-07-20 20:28:41

Stuart Edmonston, Loss Prevention Director at the UK P&I Club, has voiced a warning about the increased demand for using low-sulfur fuels in shipping:

“There are increasing demands on shipowners to comply with mandates regarding the use of low-sulfur fuels in ships. The move towards using cleaner fuels supports a global drive to reducing carbon emissions, with many countries forming new or reforming old regulations,” he says.

“Shipowners need to be aware of the differing rules and costs across jurisdictions as they face significant fines for non-compliance. Hong Kong and Australia are the latest to introduce their own bespoke requirements.”

Low sulfur fuel (0.1 percent or less) will be mandatory for all cruise ships berthing in Sydney Harbour after October 1, 2015 and, in all New South Wales (NSW) ports after July 1, 2016. Owners can be fined up to $44,000 and the master up to $22,000.

In Hong Kong, all ocean-going vessels (above 500 GT) are required to switch to low-sulfur fuel (or LNG/or similar approved fuels) during the periods the ship is at a berth, excluding the first and last hour of the berthing period. The sulfur content of the fuel may not exceed 0.5 percent.

The requirements impose criminal sanctions against the owners (including any bareboat charterers and ship manager) and the master. A contravention of the provisions relating to fuel use attracts a maximum fine of HK$200,000 and a maximum imprisonment of six months.

“Industry concerns include technical issues such as low viscosity, lack of lubricity, and low density of the new fuels,” says Edmonston. “Other issues are the higher costs of these fuels, as well as difficulties in obtaining them in some parts of the world. To avoid such problems, shipowners should consult their engine and boiler manufacturers for advice on operating with low-sulfur fuels and the need for equipment and system modifications.”


U.S. Navy Names Next Littoral Combat Ship

By MarEx 2015-07-20 20:13:48

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has announced that the next Independence variant littoral combat ship will be named USS Kansas City (LCS 22).

LCS 22 will be the second commissioned naval ship to bear the name Kansas City. The first was a replenishment oiler (AOE 3) which served a 25-year career and included service during the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm.

A fast, agile surface combatant, the LCS provides the required war fighting capabilities and operational flexibility to execute a variety of missions in areas such as mine warfare, anti-submarine warfare and surface warfare.

The ship will be built with modular design incorporating mission packages that can be changed out quickly as combat needs change in a region. These mission packages are supported by detachments that deploy both manned and unmanned vehicles, and sensors in support of mine, undersea, and surface warfare missions.

Kansas City will be built by Austal USA in Mobile, Alabama. It will be 419 feet long and be capable of operating at speeds in excess of 40 knots.


Next-Generation LNG Carrier Concept Announced

By MarEx 2015-07-20 20:00:33

The LNGreen joint industry project has developed a next-generation LNG carrier that claims to have a significantly improved environmental footprint, a higher level of energy efficiency and an improved boil-off rate and cargo capacity. The vessel concept aims to be better suited to future trading patterns than existing vessels.

The LNGreen joint industry project brought together experts from DNV GL and industry specialists from GTT, Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) and the shipowner GasLog. Each of the project partners contributed their unique know-how and experience, to develop tomorrow’s LNG carrier using the latest technology, within the bounds of existing shipbuilding methods.

LNGreen investigated the improvement of efficiency and performance of LNG carriers by considering actual operational conditions and optimization in terms of hydrodynamics, machinery and system configuration. These developments were based on DNV GL’s integrated systems engineering approach COSSMOS, state-of-the-art computational fluid dynamics calculations (CFD), and a containment system design, tailored to a specific operational profile and anticipated trades.

Martin Davies, the Project Manager at DNV GL stated that, “using enabling computer tools we managed to develop a vessel which is approximately eight percent more energy efficient and has increased its cargo volume capacity by five percent. The design is future compliant with new IGC code, Panama requirements as well as significant advances in a range of features, including the speed-range flexibility, hull form and boil-off rate”.

The total efficiency was assessed using an integrated systems approach. LNG carrier machinery systems are highly complex featuring tightly integrated sub-systems and components, like the BOG compression trains, gas management system, reliquefaction (if any), propulsion and/or generating engines, exhaust gas economizers and boilers.

The primary fuel, i.e. boil-off gas, has variable properties depending on LNG cargo type and in-voyage boil-off rate conditions. In addition, the ships usually operate on a number of trading routes. Their operating profiles vary in terms of speed, propulsion, electrical and heat demand. The above features require a rigorous model-based approach, using DNV GL COSSMOS, to assess the integrated machinery system under realistic operating conditions as experienced by GasLog.

HHI and DNV GL carried out the hydrodynamic performance evaluation by comparing CFD simulations. Different CFD codes were applied for the comparison of resistance and self-propulsion performance, but different scale effects were also considered. In addition, added resistance caused by wind and waves was investigated in order to ensure that the required power is sufficient for operation in the targeted environmental conditions.

Cargo containment optimization was investigated by GTT and HHI. The tank shape, necessary reinforcements and boil off rate calculations, were examined to develop alternative cargo tank designs that could yield additional cargo capacity. With a starting design point of 174,000m3 cargo capacity, cargo tank optimization by GTT and HHI allowed for a cargo capacity increase to 182,800m3, while maintaining the same main dimensions (length overall, breadth, draft) and taking into consideration newly introduced regulations and compatibility restrictions.

Nikolaos Kakalis, Manager of DNV GL Research & Development in Greece and responsible for COSSMOS development commented that, “fusing unique competencies of key experts from across the industry, like HHI, GTT, and GasLog, with advanced tools like the COSSMOS machinery systems simulation and optimization computer platform as well as state-of-the-art hull optimization software, we bring innovation in practice that can generate tangible added value. As LNGreen utilizes existing technology it is important to stress that this concept design could be ordered today”.


Interview with Tom Crowley Jr on SIU Dedication

By MarEx 2015-07-20 14:33:40

The Seafarers International Union recently honored the late Thomas Crowley Sr. with a new administration building named in his honor. The building is located on the campus of the Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education in Piney Point, Maryland and will house the Seafarers Medical Plan, a new hiring hall, an industrial relations classroom for the study of maritime history and additional classroom facilities.

MarEx caught up with Tom Crowley Jr., son of Tom Crowley Sr. and Chairman & CEO of Crowley Maritime Corporation, to get his thoughts on the newly dedicated center.

Tell us about the new building named in honor of your father.

Sure, well, obviously I was very honored to be a part of the dedication of the new building. It replaces an old structure that once housed trainees in the early days of the school and will serve as the administrative center of the campus and be used primarily to train U.S. merchant mariners. It is part of the SIU’s Paul Hall Center in Piney Point that is committed to providing the nation’s maritime industry with skilled, physically fit, and responsible deep-sea seafarers and inland waterways boatmen.

Crowley’s relationship with the SIU goes back a long way and I believe started with your father. Is that correct?

Yes, the relationship with the SIU certainly started with my Dad. We’ve managed to continue and expand it, and they’ve really been a key part of our success and also of the success of the entire industry in terms of helping support the Jones Act and making sure that we’re doing the right kind of training and bringing young people into the industry and building careers that otherwise wouldn’t exist. So I would say that’s kind of the cornerstone of the relationship. And of course the quality of the people – under the leadership of Mike Sacco and his team – is top notch, and the relationship just continues to grow and build across all of our businesses. So it was a great honor for them to dedicate a building there at Piney Point in honor of my father.

Is Piney Point the SIU’s main training facility?

Yes, Piney Point is kind of the center of their educational program. It was built many years ago with the support of employers but clearly put together by the SIU leadership, and they use it as a cornerstone of their efforts to help the industry. And I don’t know if you have been to Piney Point lately, or ever, but that is worthy of a story in itself. In addition to the new administration building, they’ve done a tremendous amount of work on the facility including putting in probably the most sophisticated simulator system in the country and, through consultation with us and other employers and after going out and studying what the latest and greatest technology is, they’ve really made a huge investment.

They’ve got three full-bridge simulators and six additional tug simulators to go along with them and they are all interconnected. They’ve got an engine room simulator and a crane simulator. It’s a very, very impressive facility. They’ve really upgraded the school, the classrooms and all the technology within those classrooms to give students the latest and greatest.

Your grandfather founded the company in the late 19th century and it soon became known as the Red Stack fleet. Was that the first tug group out of San Francisco?

There were a number of different ones. There was the Shipowners and Merchants Tugboat Company. There was Bay City Transportation. There was Red Stack. There was Thomas Crowley & Brothers, the original company founded by my grandfather in 1892. He had a number of different companies that he either started or purchased interests in over the years and that was kind of how he grew in San Francisco. Eventually everything was consolidated under Red Stack and the Crowley fleet was known for its distinctive red stacks.

When did your father take over and succeed him?

I’d say probably in the mid-1950s. They worked together for a long time. My grandfather was a cantankerous old guy, so he would come down and raise trouble and my Dad would have to go fix all the problems that would get raised. I guess the moment when he took over completely is when he got my grandfather an office away from the pier, so he stopped messing with him.

Your father is often referred to as a maritime visionary. What does that mean, and what was his most important contribution to the industry?

I think commitment was his vision. Like my grandfather, he continued to build the company and grow it into new areas, some of which were opportunistic – things that came along that he felt had growth opportunities but also in regard to new technology and building equipment that didn’t yet exist but knowing that the customers needed it. So that would be the Invader Class tugs and the 4×1 (400 feet by 100 feet flat-deck) barges. With respect to acquisitions, it meant buying up different ship-docking businesses up and down the West Coast. So he would grow through acquisition and then he would also grow the company by building things that he knew the customers needed but were not necessarily stepping up to the plate to build.

Kind of like you with the ATBs, right?

Well yes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, right?

No, I guess not.

You’ve got to learn your lessons somewhere. And that’s the advantage, I suppose, we have with respect to having the same type of ownership for a long period of time. We get to learn from our mistakes and we get to learn from our successes and we continue to refine and grow and build.

One of your father’s most famous exploits was the annual “Alaskan Sealift,” the armada of tugs and barges that assembled in Seattle each spring to transport supplies north during the building of the Trans-Alaska pipeline. Was it the largest project in Crowley’s history?

Yes, it was definitely the largest project and one of the largest in American history. We had built a lot of equipment that could carry the very large modules into the shallow waters of the Arctic Coast, but it was still going to be a unique solution set for what had to be done and it took a lot of logistics and coordination in terms of ice management and getting in and getting out and staging all of that equipment up there. So it was a monumental effort, but we had a great team of people who had a very “can do” attitude. Get it done and if it can’t be done, figure out how to get it done.

Yes, I knew a lot of guys who were still around San Francisco who were a part of that and they said it was pretty amazing.

In 1985 I went up for the summer and flew ice reconnaissance in Point Barrow and then met the fleet when it arrived. There were 32 barges that year. Really remarkable scene to see all of that equipment arriving all at once and then having to get discharged and watching the heavylift pull those modules off. It was quite a sight to see, and fun to be a part of.

You were also a big part of the Exxon Valdez cleanup. Was that a catalyst for Crowley’s entering the salvage and oil spill response business?

Well, at that point Crowley was the contractor for Alyeska to escort the tankers in and out of Prince William Sound, and so we were first on scene after the incident occurred. And we also had a lot of people there and a lot of equipment we could mobilize. So that was done and we were able to respond and become one of the prime contractors on the spill. Since that time we’ve gotten a lot smarter and now we spend a lot of time and effort with Alyeska on prevention. So I like to say we leveraged the skills that we learned from cleaning up to become the protectors of Prince William Sound.

It’s been a fun evolution and I think the team up there does an amazing job, day in and day out, guarding that Sound to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. So they’re up there and our tugboat captain is down in the Caribbean complaining when a hurricane rolls through, but the crews up in Prince William Sound see that weather on a weekly basis and those tugs are out there on station waiting for those tankers to come in and they get pounded pretty hard. So it’s pretty amazing to see what it’s grown into as a result of that spill.

Tell us about the joint venture between Titan and Svitzer, which is now known as Ardent.

Well, with respect to Titan, we purchased that company from Dick Fairbanks and the late David Parrot a number of years ago and ran it as a wholly owned Crowley group. And we recognized after a number of very high-profile projects, the latest being the Costa Concordia, that we had developed the Titan brand into a global player and needed to continue to grow our footprint globally. We’ve known Svitzer for many years and sat down and had some strategic discussions with them and found that they have a very similar set of goals and a very similar approach. So we quickly came to the conclusion that if we were to join forces we would improve our coverage and be able to eliminate some duplicate costs in terms of facilities and equipment but most importantly create a more global brand that would be able to focus not only on salvage but also on prevention and response, looking at things at little more proactively instead of reactively.

It’s a 50-50 joint venture and we’re trying to take the best of the best from each company and build around that and really implement a more focused marketing approach, ensuring that we take the capabilities we gained from a project like the Costa Concordia and combine that with Svitzer’s expertise from jobs like the Rena down in Australia. Rena is an incredibly complex job, probably just as complex as Costa Concordia but with less publicity.

Has the merger expanded your geographic capabilities?

Yes, it has. Svitzer is very strong in Australia and the Middle East and Asia. We have a small office in Singapore and have been trying to grow our Asian presence. And of course Titan has a strong presence in the Caribbean and more recently in the Mediterranean. So it gives Titan a much larger footprint and also gives Svitzer more wreck-removal expertise that Titan gained over the years.

There is a well-known book about your grandfather and father called Two Men at the Helm, detailing the company’s first 100 years. Is it still available?

Yes, you can actually download all 159 pages from our website, It was commissioned by my father and written by Jean Gilbertson, who used to work for us, and it was published in 1992 on the 100th anniversary of the company’s founding.

Tell us about the Thomas Crowley Award and what it means to you as the “Third Leader at the Helm.” I understand it’s really a big deal.

Yes, that award covers a lot of different dimensions. We survey employees and ask for nominations of people who stand out and demonstrate the core values of the company, especially hard work and getting things done and being a high-performance employee. The other dimension is to recognize all of the past hard work that’s gone into making the company what it is today. And that’s not just my grandfather and my father but all the employees who pitch in, and the award is kind of a symbol that all employees can relate to when they realize that the reason they come to work is to get the job done and keep the customers happy and grow the company for the future.

And lastly it’s certainly a tribute to my grandfather. He had to work a hell of a lot harder than any of us today in terms of rowing out to the Farallon Islands to catch the ships as they came in. So it’s also meant to recognize that effort and what it took to build the company up in the early days.

Yes, it’s pretty amazing. He used to row out and then row alongside and throw up what they called the “Crowley Hook.” And he would sit there behind the vessel as it came in and talk to the quartermaster or whoever and get all the provisions. It’s really a great story. He was really a tough guy.

Under your leadership Crowley is moving into LNG in a big way. Do you see this as a long-term commitment for the company?

Yes, LNG is really the cornerstone of an even larger project, which is the conversion of our Ro/Ro tug and barge service to Puerto Rico to a lift-on/lift-off ship service, which will significantly upgrade the quality of the service we’re able to provide our customers. The huge investment in our two new Commitment Class, LNG-powered ConRo ships, is the single largest investment the company has ever made. When you look at environmental compliance and what it’s going to take to burn cleaner, the fact that the U.S has an almost infinite supply of natural gas helped us determine that LNG was the fuel of the future for container shipping.

In addition to fueling the ships with LNG, we also see an opportunity in the Caribbean islands to export the fuel in small-scale form. So we bought a company called Carib Energy that is in the business of exporting LNG, and we are continuing to build out that business to supply manufacturers and other industrial customers in the Caribbean with domestically sourced LNG that we ship in ISO containers. I think it will grow into a big business, but the cornerstone of the strategy is clean, cheap fuel and investing in the infrastructure to put that fuel to use. And these container ships will be significant users of the product, so we see that as a great opportunity.

We understand congratulations are in order on your Honorary Doctorate in Commercial Science from Webb Institute. What did you say to the graduates as they embark upon their careers?

My message to them is that they had to work a hell of a lot harder than I did to get that degree! I spent a day with them touring the campus and seeing the work they had to put in. Webb Institute is a boot camp for naval architecture and it’s a great, great program. They are really turning out some of the brightest folks in the business, and they will all have an amazing impact on our industry in the future whether it’s in vessel design or new fuel systems or autonomous vessel controls – you name it, they’re working on it there.

Is this your first honorary degree?

Well, it’s actually my second. The other was from Kings Point, so both from Long Island.

I want to thank you and most importantly congratulate you.

It was good to talk to you. – MarEx

The opinions expressed herein are the author’s and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.