The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Kill Van Kull walk 2

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for part one, click here

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Kill Van Kull is an industrial waterway which provides a border between Staten Island and New Jersey, as well as serving the role of a maritime route between the Port of Newark and the greater body of water called New York Harbor or the New York Harbor Estuary- depending on your priorities. The New Jersey side of the Kill Van Kull is lined with modern docks and industrial facilities. The Staten Island side seems to have abandoned its industrial role, with storm shattered pilings and relict rail tracks found lining its banks.

from wikipedia

New York Harbor lies at the confluence of three major bodies of water. The harbor opens onto the New York Bight (Atlantic Ocean) to the southeast and the Long Island Sound to the northeast. Both of these are essentially marine bodies with both tides and saltwater, but the Sound compared to the Atlantic is about 20-30% less saline (as an estuary), and the tide is about 3 hours later with as much as 70% more variation. The Hudson River adds a fresher, non-tidal inflow from the north, although the tide and brackishness extend well up river.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Critters abound along this cement clad shore, and large flocks of coastal and ocean fowl may be observed. My ignorance of the natural world is an ongoing handicap (why can’t I know everything about anything? … human… all too… human…) so I cannot describe the taxonomy of these birds. Perhaps a helpful Newtown Pentacle reader with ornithological knowledge can assist in identifying the specie observed above. I can tell you that they were apparent in great numbers, during the early days of March.

UPDATE: Sharp eyed reader Christina informs me that these are Brant Geese.


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New York District recently shared its plans to improve the New York – New Jersey Harbor Estuary with members of Congress and other key decision-makers. Representatives of more than 20 organizations joined the District commander aboard the USACE vessel Hayward tour of the estuary and the Hudson River.

“It’s the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s historic exploration up this great river,” said Col. John R. Boulé II, New York District commander, addressing the group from the bow of the Hayward. “Our view must be very different from his. Years of industrialization have considerably degraded this part of the Hudson.”

The Corps plans to help turn back the hands of time on the estuary. The event to celebrated the unveiling of an innovative, comprehensive restoration plan created in collaboration with partners, and with a focus on restoring the estuary. This will create a healthier environment for fish and wildlife, and also provide the public cleaner waters, healthier fisheries, increased flood protection, recreational opportunities, and a boost to the region’s economy.

“The primary goal of the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary Comprehensive Restoration Plan is to develop a mosaic of habitats that provides maximum ecological and societal benefits to the region,” said Lisa Baron, project manager and marine biologist with the New York District.

A diverse group of USACE technical experts and consultants developed the plan as part of the Hudson Raritan Estuary Ecosystem Restoration Study sponsored by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The plan was prepared in collaboration with the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary Program and more than 60 partnering organizations, including federal, state and local agencies, non-governmental organizations and regional stakeholders. The overall plan is unique in that these agencies are presently combining their funds and forces to reduce redundancy, become more efficient and save taxpayers a considerable amount of money. The plan will serve as a master guide and framework for restoration efforts throughout the estuary.

The plan involves many partners because the estuary spans 1,600 square miles across New York and New Jersey. An estuary is the area where the fresh waters of a river meet the salt water of the sea. The New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary includes rivers, wetlands, coastline and open waters, and is located within a complex ecological system and a metropolitan region with a population of 20 million people. The plan’s boundary covers a large region of the estuary, which is a 25-mile radius around the Statue of Liberty National Monument.

“To perform restoration work in the estuary, the plan divides the estuary into eight regional areas associated with specific watersheds,” said Peter Weppler, chief of the New York District’s Coastal Ecosystem Section. He is a biologist with an extensive background in ecological investigations.

The plan includes 11 priority targets for restoration, recognized as Target Ecosystem Characteristics that include methods to restore and create habitats, ensure these habitats live in harmony and with the surrounding urban infrastructure, and to ensure the estuary is safe and accessible to the millions of estuary residents and visitors.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The big show on the Kill Van Kull, of course, are the Tugboats transiting between the lower Harbor and the Port of Newark. Tugboats, for those of you unfamiliar with the role they are engineered to perform, act as precision guides that pilot and nudge ocean going vessels through the relatively shallow and tight quarters found in coastal waters. Powered by engines many times more powerful than required for vessels of their size and tonnage, Tugs are also designed with specially stiffened and overly robust frames which allow them to manipulate the elephantine ships that they shepherd to safe harbor. Pictured above is the Jill Reinauer. For an interesting window on the life of a tugboat crew and the hazards they face in New York Harbor, check out this post at


Built for Interstate Oil Transport by Main Iron Works of Houma, La in 1967 (hull #183) as the tug Ranger. She measures 91’(ft) long, with a 9’(ft) draft and 26’(ft) wide rating at 2,000 horsepower.

At the time Interstate Oil Transport had two fleets. Their Northeast Fleet “Green Fleet” that operated in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. And a Southern Fleet “White fleet” which operated out of Tampa, Florida. The Ranger was assigned to the “Green Fleet.” However, many changes came to Interstate Oil, a company called Southern National Resources (also known for a time as SONAT Marine) purchased Interstate Oil Transport. SONAT eventually sold out to Maritrans Operating Partners LLP.

In 1998, Maritrans’s northeast fleet was thinned. Many of the vessels where acquired by K-Sea Transportation Partners. Reinauer Transportation acquired three vessels, the Ranger was one of the three vessels. She was renamed the Jill Reinauer the others vessels Reinauer acquired where the Interstate Transporter (Kristy-Ann Reinauer), and the Delaware (Curtis Reinauer). In 2005, the Jill Reinauer was re-powered with MTU engines and fitted with canted windows in her main wheelhouse to reduce glare in the wheelhouse, and was fitted with an upper wheelhouse as well, this work was done at Reinauer’s yard in Staten Island, New York.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A sudden flurry of activity on the Kill Van Kull began when the Charles D. McAllister sped by, after having passed beneath the elegant Bayonne Bridge (designed by Omar Othman under the guidance of Gustav Lindenthal, who designed the Hells Gate Bridge spanning the East River nearby storied Astoria). For a different perspective on the Kill Van Kull and lots of information on the Chemical Coast of New Jersey, Bayonne Bridge, and Port of Newark- check out the Newtown Pentacle postings from June of 2009 here, and here.

also from

Built in 1967 as the Esso Bayou State by Jacksonville Shipyard of Jacksonville, FLA.  Rated at 1,800 horsepower she is driven by two Caterpillar 12-D398 Turbo main engines, with Lufkin reduction gears with a ratio of 7.14:1  She is a  twin screw tug, fitted kort nozzles and flanking rudders.  She is outfitted with two fire monitors that produce 1,500 Gallons Per Minute.  She has a fuel capacity of 26,670 gallons, 628 gallons of Lube Oil and 3,480 gallons of potable water.

She was later renamed the Exxon Bayou State, and when Exxon became Sea River Maritime, her name was altered to S/R Bayou State.  When Sea River sold off their assets she was acquired by McAllister Towing and Transportation she was renamed the Charles D. McAllister and is currently assigned to McAllister’s New York, New York fleet.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Moran towing’s Cape Cod shot past at what seemed to be it full 4,200 HP throttle, undoubtedly in an urgent rush. Note the lesson in physics illustrated by the waveforms around the speeding tug. The warping of the water’s surface illustrate the principles of displacement, surface tension, and offer visible waveforms for study.


Tugs are “displacement” hull vessels, the hull is designed so water flows around it, there is no consideration for having the vessel “plane”. Because of this the hull form is limited to a maximum speed when running “free” that is about 1.5 times the square root of the waterline length. As the tug approaches this speed when running “free” it is perched between the bow wave and the stern wave. Since the hull cannot plane, application of additional power when approaching maximum hull speed only results in a larger bow wave, with the tug “squatting” further into the trough.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Amy C McAllister was next on the parade, and it seemed to also be in quite a hurry. Something was approaching, something big.

also from

Built in 1975, she was formerly named the Jane A. Bouchard.  She is fitted with two EMD 16-645-E2 main engines for a rating of  4,000 horsepower turning two Falk  reduction gears at a ratio of 4.708:1.  She is also fitted kort nozzles, and flanking rudders with a Smatco single drum towing winch outfitted with 2,200′ (ft) of 2 ¼” (in) towing wire.  When she was acquired by McAllister Towing and Transportation she was renamed the Amy C. McAllister.

She is currently assigned to McAllister’s New York, New York Fleet.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Turns out that “something big” was the Eagle Beaumont, a gargantuan fuel ship which was flagged in far off Singapore.  Sources reveal that the Eagle Beaumont is an “aframax tanker“, was built at the Korean Samsung Heavy Industries Yard in 1996, has a maximum DWT of 99,448, and is a double hulled vessel classified as “1A1 Tanker for Oil ESP E0 LCS-SI” with a worth of some $52 million.


AET’s double-hulled VLCC fleet is managed from London and is mostly engaged in the Atlantic trades, as well as longer haul trips to the US West Coast. There are currently 11 vessels in this fleet with an average age of less than five years. Growing VLCC capability is a priority and we are on target to achieve a 25-strong fleet within the next five years.

The fleet of aframax vessels forms the core of AET’s crude oil activities. All double-hulled and with an average age of around 9 years, these workhorses of the tanker industry transport crude oil in Europe, Asia and the Americas. This fleet and its global footprint will continue to grow, to provide increased connectivity between geographic regions and between our VLCC operations and our lightering activities.

AET vessels are employed for customers on long-term period charters, shorter voyage charters or on extended contracts of affreightment (COAs). The dedicated chartering teams in London, Singapore, Gurgaon and Houston work alongside our customers to ensure we deliver the best possible solutions.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The two tugs maneuvering the Eagle Beaumont in the narrow space of the Kill Van Kull are the aforementioned Amy C. McAllister and a second McAllister tug which escapes my identification due to the shadows cast by the titanic fuel tanker. My suspicions point to the Charles B. McAllister, but the wheel house exhibits minor differences from the shot above, so I’m probably wrong. At any rate, they performed a rotation of the tanker using sturdy cables and precision coordination of effort.

from wikipedia

Tankers used for liquid fuels are classified according to their capacity.

In 1954 Shell Oil developed the average freight rate assessment (AFRA) system which classifies tankers of different sizes. To make it an independent instrument, Shell consulted the London Tanker Brokers’ Panel (LTBP). At first, they divided the groups as General Purpose for tankers under 25,000  tons deadweight (DWT); Medium Range for ships between 25,000 and 45,000 DWT and Large Range for the then-enormous ships that were larger than 45,000 DWT. The ships became larger during the 1970s, and the list was extended, where the tons are long tons:

  • 10,000–24,999 DWT: General Purpose tanker
  • 25,000–44,999 DWT: Medium Range tanker
  • 45,000–79,999 DWT: Large Range 1 (LR1)
  • 80,000–159,999 DWT: Large Range 2 (LR2)
  • 160,000–319,999 DWT: Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC)
  • 320,000–549,999 DWT: Ultra Large Crude Carrier (ULCC)

– photo by Mitch Waxman

From the direction of the Port of Newark, a behemoth container ship suddenly appeared. Notice how high it’s riding in the water, signifying that its pessimistically half empty. A Liberian flagged 231 meter long by 32 meter wide ocean going vessel, it was built in the year 2000, and is capable of moving at 21.1 knots. Another product of the Samsung Heavy Industries yard in Korea, it’s the Santa Carolina.

from wikipedia

Samsung Heavy Industries or SHI (Korean: 삼성중공업, Hanja: 三星重工業) is the second-largest shipbuilder in the world and one of the “Big Three” shipbuilders of South Korea. A core subsidiary of the Samsung Group, South Korea’s and the world’s largest conglomerate, SHI’s main focus is on shipbuilding, offshore floaters, digital devices for ships, and construction and engineering concerns.

SHI operates manufacturing facilities at home and abroad, including ship block fabrication factories in Ningbo and Rongcheng, China. The Geoje Shipyard in particular, SHI’s largest shipyard in South Korea, boasts the highest dock turnover rate in the world. The largest of the three docks, Dock No. 3, is 640 meters long, 97.5 meters wide, and 13 meters deep. Mostly ultra-large ships are built at this dock, having the world’s highest production efficiency with yearly dock turnover rate of 10 and the launch of 30 ships per year.[2]

SHI specializes in the building of high added-value and special purpose vessels, including LNG carriers, off-shore related vessels, oil drilling ships, FPSO/FSO’s, ultra Large container ships and Arctic shuttle tankers. In recent times SHI has concentrated on LNG tankers and drillships, for which it is the market leader.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Laura K. Moran tug appeared, and took up its position to guide the Santa Carolina through the narrow hazards faced by the Santa Carolina passing by the Eagle Beaumont. Realize that a ship of this size is incapable of stopping on a dime, and the dynamics of such massive objects suggest vast kinetic energy transfers should they accidentally come in contact with other objects. An interesting point of language, interesting to your humble narrator at least, in the correct usage of the words allision and collision. An Allision is used when a moving object strikes a fixed object- i.e. when a ship strikes a pier or shoreline feature. A Collision is when two moving objects meet. The job of the Tugboat Captain is to avoid either.


When one thinks of admiralty law the archetypical fact pattern that comes to many people’s minds is a collision or allision (vessel contact with a fixed object). There are many well ingrained legal concepts and rules, some of which are unlike anything found in land based law.

First, when there has been a collision or allision the vessel herself may be sued as if she were a person. This is an “in rem” action and the complaint is against the vessel her tackle her engines and appurtenances.

Second, under general maritime law, each vessel must pay in proportion to the amount that it was at fault. This rule stands in stark contrast to state law in a those states, including Maryland, where plaintiffs who bear any fault can be barred from all recovery.

Third, there are several judicial presumptions of fault that all vessel operators should bear in mind. A vessel creating wake is presumed at fault for damage caused by wave wash. A vessel in violation of any safety statute which could have prevented the casualty is presumed at fault. A vessel that is drifting or dragging anchor is presumed at fault. A vessel that allides with a fixed object (unless it is submerged) is presumed at fault.

Fourth, there are several sources of fault in addition to the judicial presumptions including, statutory violations, local rules, unseaworthiness of your vessel and custom. If you violate a custom you may well find yourself liable for the casualty. A prime example of a custom is the Point Bend Custom on the Mississippi River. Since the current flows fastest on the outside of a bend and slower under a point of land, all downbound traffic travels around the outside of a bend while upriver traffic takes advantage of reduced current by traveling from point of land to point of land. This creates a situation in which large vessels must weave through each other’s paths.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In fact, the two ships were quite a distance from each other, but in nautical terms, this is a tight squeeze for the vagaries of displacement and current are somewhat unpredictable. The Tug crews that inhabit New York Harbor carry a knowledge passed from father to son and captain to deckmate, and represent millions of hours of applied labor and hard won familiarity with the liquid thoroughfare of the Kill Van Kull. No room for error is to be found as they nudge and pull, and mistakes can be deadly to crew and environment alike. The Kill Van Kull is only a thousand feet wide, after all.


Errors in judgment by the navigators aboard two tanker ships carrying volatile cargos resulted in a collision, explosion and fire that consumed both tankers, two attending tugs and left 37 sailors dead and more than 20 injured in New York harbor on June 16, 1966.

The fiery accident remains counted even today as among the deadliest shipwrecks in the history of New York Harbor.

The tankers, the British MV Alva Cape was entering the harbor with a cargo of naphtha and was struck amidships on the starboard side by the outgoing American tanker Texaco Massachusetts. The raging explosion and fire that resulted from the crash destroyed not only the tankers but the tugs Latin America and Esso Vermont.

Thirty-four sailors perished during this first explosive event on July 3. Nineteen of them perished on the Alva Cape, eight on the Esso Vermont, three on the Texaco Massachusetts and three on the tug Latin America. The U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and New York City fire boats worked together to battle the flames and rescue as many sailors as possible from the burning vessels in a place with the ominous name of Kill Van Kull Channel.

The blaze was finally extinguished, but the Alva Cape was not finished as a human death trap. Three more men were killed in yet another explosion while they were aboard the burned out wreck, attempting to unload what remained of its deadly cargo. This happened just 12 days later, bringing the death toll from the accident to 37.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Along the Staten Island coastline, an abandoned rail line is observed. Forgotten-NY has rolled through here, and as always, wrote the book on Cornelius Vanderbilt’s SIRT.

check out the words of the Master- click here

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Inheritances of the industrial revolution such as these rusted tracks litter the North Shore of Staten Island. The lovely homes and tree lined streets nearby are sited, unfortunately, amongst the toxic inheritances of the heroic age of the mills and factories which defined the area- which cause your humble narrator to muse on analogies to Maspeth and Greenpoint, found along the route of the malefic Newtown Creek as it gurgles along the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens.

from wikipedia

Much of the North Shore is industrialized, which when paired with the fumes being exuded from New Jersey factories, helps to give Staten Island the worst smog in New York City. According to the New York State Department of Health, deaths from lung cancer are 48% higher on Staten Island than in the city as a whole. The poorest air quality being on the North Shore of the island. Within the North Shore’s approximately 5.2 square mile area, there has been around 21 different sites that the Environmental Protection Agency or residents have identified as contaminated. All of them sit within 70 feet of homes and apartment buildings, and residents believe that many violate state environmental regulations.

While the famed Fresh Kills Landfill much further South on the island has received large media coverage for its harmful effects, eventually leading to its closing in 2001, the numerous problems on the North Shore have gone ignored. The demographics of those who live around the former landfill differ quite drastically from those who live on the island’s North Shore, leading some to point the finger at racism and classism as answers to why so many North Shore sites remain contaminated.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Santa Carolina threaded through the Kill Van Kull without incident, as do most of the hundreds of large ships that pass through it daily. The redoubtable Army Corps of Engineers is involved in a multi year project to deepen the Kill so as to accommodate even larger trans oceanic shipping and ensure that the Port of Newark remains a primary destination for all the world’s traders and merchants.

from wikipedia

Planned and built during the 1950s by the Port Authority, it is the largest container port in the eastern United States and the third largest in the country. Container goods typically arrive on container ships through the Narrows and the Kill Van Kull before entering Newark Bay, a shallow body of water which is dredged to accommodate the larger ships (some ships enter Newark Bay via the Arthur Kill). The port facility consists of two main dredged slips and multiple loading cranes. Metal containers are stacked in large arrays visible from the New Jersey Turnpike before being loaded onto rail cars and trucks. The building of the port facility antiquated most of the waterfront port facilities in New York Harbor, leading to a steep decline in such areas as Manhattan, Hoboken, and Brooklyn. The automated nature of the facility requires far fewer workers and does not require the opening of containers before onward shipping.

Today, the major Port operators at Port Newark-Elizabeth include Maher terminals, APM terminal (A. P. Moller-Maersk), and PNCT (Port Newark Container terminal).

Other significant seaport terminals under the auspices of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey include: Global Marine Terminal in Jersey City, NJ; NYCT (New York Container Terminal) in Staten Island, NY; and Red Hook Container Terminal at the Brooklyn Marine Terminal in Brooklyn, NY.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I wonder if this duck knows that menacing “menage a mallard” that I saw at Dutch Kills a few weeks ago? Couldn’t be the same suspicious quacker, could it?

from wikipedia

The Kill Van Kull is a tidal strait approximately 3 miles (4.8 km) long and 1,000 feet (305 m) wide separating Staten Island and Bayonne, New Jersey, USA. The name kill comes from the Middle Dutch word kille, meaning “riverbed” or “water channel.”

Kill Van Kull connects Newark Bay with Upper New York Bay. The Robbins Reef Light marks the eastern end. Historically it has been one of the most important channels for the commerce of the region, providing a passage for marine traffic between Manhattan and the industrial towns of New Jersey. Since the final third of the 20th century, it has provided the principal access for ocean-going container ships to Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal, the busiest port facility in the eastern United States and the principal marine terminal for New York Harbor.

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 14, 2010 at 5:07 pm

2 Responses

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  1. The avian critters are Brant Geese.

    Christina Wilkinson

    March 14, 2010 at 6:02 pm

  2. […]  Also, Mitch of Newtown Pentacle has sauntered through my offices here recently and put together his own KVK impressions; part one can be accessed through part […]

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