On a stormy evening in New York Harbor with over 800 passengers onboard, the Staten Island Ferry became stricken with an engine room fire. Completely immobilizing her in gale force winds at the height of rush hour just before the Christmas weekend. The Captain of the ferry and United States Coast Guard called all available tugs in the vicinity to come to the aid.
The Carver Marine Towing tug MISTER JIM was less than a mile away and the Chief Mate on watch, Will Gedney didn’t hesitate and steamed over. Will sounded the general alarm to get all hands on deck and come up with a plan of action. Captain Chris Mitchell rushed to the wheelhouse and worked on the plan with Will, Chief Engineer Mike Warlikowski and deckhand Robert Pires in the wheelhouse. Captain Mitchell and the crew would go on deck to assist in the evacuation of the ferry passengers. Chief Mate Gedney would stay at the helm and take control of the Staten Island Ferry by making up to the stern quarter of the SANDY GROUND. Another tug would make up on the other side with lines to maintain control.
The tug DAISY MAE was on site within minutes and Captain Bobby Clark positioned themselves on the bow of the ferry to maintain control of the stricken vessel. In the midst of the event, the Carver Marine crews were working with the Staten Island Ferry crews and NYPD officers to come up with a plan on how to safely get the passengers off in a choppy harbor and freezing temperatures. There was no safe way for them to step onto any vessel with endangering the lives of the people. There was smaller NYC Waterways ferries on scene but they couldn’t safely lay alongside the SANDY GROUND either without risking damage to the vessels. The MISTER JIM on the Port side in combination with the other tug boat on the Starboard side wound shift further back on their lines. This allowed the smaller ferry to place their loading ramp bow into the loading ramp of the Staten Island Ferry. The tugs maintained control of the ferry all the while allowing the smaller ferry to wedge in safely alongside the MISTER JIM. The first ferry evacuated roughly 150 souls on board.
By then, the harbor was buzzing with FDNY vessels, NYPD vessels and other tugs, including the MACKENZIE ROSE on station now. The SANDY GROUND anchored but due to the extreme currents and weather conditions in New York, she was drifting towards the shoals and shore. The tugs were watching the potential impending danger of now having the ferry SANDY GROUND, run aground. All crews on the Carver Marine Tugs in addition to the vessels on scene maneuvered the 320’ into safer waters and closer to the Ferry dock in Staten Island.
There were still passengers on board that needed to get off so an additional ferry positioned herself alongside the MISTER JIM and the other tug to evacuate the worried passengers. Transferring trained sea farers at sea isn’t an easy feat, let alone civilians who are now scared and have never done anything like this in their life. They all had to be addressed individually to make sure no one slipped into the dark waters of New York. All hands from all parties filled up another ferry with 500 people and now, the disabled vessel was positioned close to the berth in Staten Island.
A third smaller ferry was now in position, but there was such a large gap in between the vessels that the remaining 150 passengers would need to step across. It was a risk that no one wanted them to take. The fire was extinguished and contained using the fixed CO2 and it was decided by the Coast Guard and FDNY that it was best to keep the remaining passengers on board. The MISTER JIM and the other tug on the stern acting as the propulsion and the DAISY MAE on the bow to guide the bow of the ferry safely into her slip with the MACKENZIE ROSE on the other side to assist as needed. The mission was now complete and every single one of those 800+ passengers could sleep safely in their own bed and home with their family.
All of the Carver Marine Towing crews jumped right into action, not knowing what the end result would be, but they knew what had to be done. The true professionalism of our crews is what makes the difference in this industry. Most people simply see the tugs sailing around New York harbor and don’t really understand what it takes to put to sea or in the so called sixth borough of New York Harbor. As proven in this event and many like this that don’t get the attention of the media, it’s the crews that make it.
Captain Chris Mitchell
Mate Will Gedney
Engineer Mike Warlikowski
DH Robert Pires
Captain Bobby Clark
Mate Justin Bressette
Engineer Frank Paoluccio
DH Dan Lawson
DH Matt Morey
Captain Jeff Keating
Mate Adam Clark
Engineer Michael Dinkel
DH Chris Southard
DH Sharif Porter Junior
Bravo Zulu to all of those involved! The actions do not go unnoticed and its greatly appreciated by everyone. Thank you.