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Maritime Sunday drifts into port again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A “Ro-Ro,” car carriers like Courageous Ace allow a fleet of newly manufactured vehicles to be driven on and off the ship and unloaded without the usage of Gantry or Transfer Cranes, hence “Roll on, Roll off” or “Ro-Ro.”

Radio call sign IMO 9252204, Courageous Ace is 198m long with a 32m beam and has a gross tonnage of 439. In Americanese, that means its 649.606 feet long and 104.987 feet tall, or around one and three quarter football fields long and just under one quarter of a football field high off the water. Why football fields, like horsepower, remain a measurement we all can reference I will never understand. Comparisons follow.

Courageous Ace is just shy of what the Citigroup building in LIC turned horizontal and set afloat would look like, and is approximately the same size as the Richard J. Daley Center in Chicago (the office building in the Blues Brothers movie). It’s owned and operated by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines.


MOL takes a proactive stance in reducing the environmental burden of its vessels as we transport environmental-friendly automobiles that offer improved fuel efficiency and lower CO2 emissions. MOL launched the Courageous Ace in 2003, with a bow that is aerodynamically rounded and beveled along the bow line to help reduce wind resistance. This groundbreaking design results in significant energy savings.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Charles D. McAllister was one of two tugs assisting the colossus into its berth in New Jersey. She seemed to be on watch rather than actively towing, perhaps two tugs were required further out, beyond the Narrows. A large vessel like Courageous Ace actually has to deal with cross currents, and its draft requires that it stay in the deep maritime channels maintained by US Army Corps of Engineers and stick to a route proscribed by the Coast Guard.


McALLISTER TOWING is one of the oldest and largest family-owned marine towing and transportation companies in the United States. Founded by Captain James McAllister in 1864 with a single sail lighter, the company has served the maritime community continuously, earning a reputation for unsurpassed excellence. Today, the company operates a balanced and extensive fleet of tugs, barges, and ferries in the major ports on the U.S. East Coast and in Puerto Rico. Captain Brian A. McAllister is the President and a great-grandson of the founder, representing the fourth generation of McAllisters at the helm. Five McAllisters of the fifth generation are also employed by the company.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My guess would be that the Ro-Ro had already finished its journey and slowed down sufficiently that using two tugs to move into the dock would have been overkill.


She (Charles D. McAllister) is powered by two Caterpillar 12-D398 Turbo main engines with Lufkin reduction gears at a ratio of 7.14:1 for a rated 1,800 horsepower. She is a twin screw tug, fitted kort nozzles and flanking rudders.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ellen McAlllister was doing all the work, noodling the giant into berth. Shortly after docking and whatever business Homeland Security and Customs required of the ship was accomplished, hundreds of brand new automobiles and trucks would be driven off the ship and into a lot. Some of these vehicles will be loaded onto trains for transport all up and down the Northeast, others onto trucks for more localized delivery. The Ellen McAllister was profiled recently in the NY Times, linked to below.


For two or three or four weeks at a time, the men — and a few women — of this tugboat business live in constant sight of the flashing red light atop the Empire State Building and 1 World Trade Center’s red-and-white sparkle, but they rarely, if ever, set foot in Manhattan. Most of their exposure to the city occurs during the occasional walk from their Staten Island port to the corner store, where they buy lottery tickets.

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