The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

loose and displaced

with one comment

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent activities had carried your humble narrator to… Staten Island… A friend’s photography was included in a gallery exhibit at the venerable Snug Harbor, and wishing to both show support for another photographer and to witness his work in print form- I began the long journey from Astoria in Queens to the outermost of boroughs. After exiting the ferry, I was titillated by the sudden appearance of the gargantuan “Hanjin Lisbon” being guided toward the Kill Van Kull by two Moran tugs.


  • Hanjin Lisbon Vessel’s Details
  • Ship Type: Cargo
  • Year Built: 2003
  • Length x Breadth: 278 m X 40 m
  • DeadWeight: 67979 t
  • Speed recorded (Max / Average): 21 / 20.6 knots (20.6 knots = 23.7060566 mph)

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Like all the ocean going vessels of its type, the Lisbon is a lumbering monster of a ship. Nearly 1,000 feet in length, the cargo ship was most likely headed to the Port facilities at Newark Bay, and requires the use of tender boats to navigate the relatively narrow and hazard fraught coastal leg of its journey to New York harbor from some impossibly foreign port. It’s titan engines and onboard electronics can propel the ship through open ocean with great accuracy, of course, but the giant cargo ship can’t exactly “stop on a dime”.


MARION MORAN Vessel’s Details

    • Ship Type: Tug
    • Year Built: 1982
    • Length x Breadth: 39 m X 12 m
    • DeadWeight: 10 t
    • Speed recorded (Max / Average): 14.5 / 8.9 knots
    • Flag: USA [US]
    • Call Sign: WRS2924
    • IMO: 8121812, MMSI: 366941020

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Tugboat and towing services of the modern era, like Moran towing, are inheritors of centuried wisdom passed down from generations of mariners. The complex currents, mores, and eddies of the harbor are well known to the crews of these vessels and their job includes guiding such massive visitors to the port into safe harborage. Two tugs were observed at work, the Marion Moran and the Gramma Lee T. Moran.


Moran Towing began operations in 1860 when founder Michael Moran opened a towing brokerage, Moran Towing and Transportation Company, in New York Harbor. In 1863, the company was transformed from a brokerage into an owner-operator of tugboats when it purchased a one-half interest in the tugboat Ida Miller for $2,700. Over time Moran acquires a fleet of tugboats. It was Michael Moran who painted the first white “M” on a Moran tugboat stack, in 1880.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Iconic, Moran tugs are distinguished their large white “M” logo and the white and maroon “color way” which allows them to be identified at great distances across the harbor. Like all tugs, they are built with highly reinforced steel superstructures and powerful engines that allow them to pursue an occupation which requires the ability to precisely handle tonnages which are clumsy and thousands of times their own weight.


The LEE T. MORAN is an expression of brute power and utility that belies the refinements of technical engineering below her waterline. There, twin ports are cut into the steel hull to make room for the tug’s Z-drive units. On the floor of the shop they look like the lower units of giant outboard engines. Made by Ulstein, a subsidiary of Rolls-Royce, the Z-drive functions much like an outboard. Imagine two outboards extending straight down through the hull, each having the ability to rotate 360 degrees. That makes even a heavy, 92-foot tug with a 450-ton displacement very maneuverable. “It can turn on a dime,” says Doughty. “The hull bottom is slightly flatter to adjust to the two drive units. By turning each drive out 90 degrees, the captain can go from full-ahead (14 knots) to a dead stop in no time.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Containerized shipping is what makes the modern world tick, of course, and has enabled the business model of “just in time delivery” to take hold. The steel boxes which adorn the Lisbon’s decks will be unloaded by Gantry Crane at the dock and will find their way onto either rail or truck for delivery to the final consignee. What isn’t commonly known about these cargo ships is that ordinary people can book passage onboard, finding accommodation in a variety of staterooms, and cruise the world on a proverbial “slow boat to china”.


Hanjin Shipping ( President& CEO Young Min Kim) is Korea’s largest and one of the world’s top ten container carriers that operates some 60 liner and tramper services around the globe transporting over 100 million tons of cargo annually. Its fleet consists of some 200 containerships, bulk and LNG carriers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The mind reels at such suggestions, and your humble narrator is both titillated at the notion of meeting and interacting with the sailors onboard (undoubtedly Koreans, Tagalog, and Chinese- citizens from all over the manufacturing hubs of the Pacific) and terrified by the lore and knowledge they must carry with them about the true nature of the world. Often these cargo ships will encounter pirates, terrorists, and other malingering forces on both the open sea and in coastal waters. Perhaps they have other experiences, of the sort which sailors do not discuss with outsiders, which only a hip pocket flask of raw whiskey might pry out of them.

from wikipedia

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was formed in 1921 and the Newark Bay Channels were authorized by the Rivers and Harbors Acts in 1922. Shipping operations languished after the war, and in 1927, the City of Newark started construction of Newark Airport (now known as Newark Liberty International Airport) on the northwest quadrant of the wetlands which lay between Port Newark and the edge of the developed city. Port Authority took over the operations of Port Newark and Newark Airport in 1948 and began modernizing and expanding both facilities southward. In 1958, the Port Authority dredged another shipping channel which straightened the course of Bound Brook, the tidal inlet forming the boundary between Newark and Elizabeth. Dredged materials was used to create new upland south of the new Elizabeth Channel, where the Port Authority constructed the Elizabeth Marine Terminal. The first shipping facility to open upon the Elizabeth Channel was the new 90-acre (36 ha) Sea-Land Container Terminal, which was the prototype for virtually every other container terminal constructed thereafter.

The building of the port facility antiquated most of the traditional 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.


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  1. […] Tug, the Gramma Lee T. Moran, was mentioned in a Newtown Pentacle posting of November 26- “loose and displaced“. As it’s one of my favorite tugs in New York Harbor to shoot, I felt a little bad that […]

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