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Maritime Sunday crashes into port again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The winner of the 2013 Great North River Tugboat Race, McAllister towing’s Resolute was spied while guiding the Atlantic Conveyor Cargo ship from Port Elizabeth Newark to the open harbor along the Kill Van Kull. Resolute was running against the tide, and seemed to using all of her 3,000 horsepower to keep the larger vessel on course.


McAllister Towing is one of the oldest and largest marine towing and transportation companies in the United States. They operate a fleet of more than seventy tugboats and twelve barges along the East Coast from Portland, Maine to San Juan, Puerto Rico. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A crew member from Resolute told me that the boat’s characteristic “beard” is referred to as “pudding.” It’s actually made of ropes, and is also referred to as a “beard,” although it is technically a “bow fender.” Most tugs these days use old truck tires for this function, which protects the hulls of both tower and towee at their point of contact. Check out this page at for details on how pudding is made.


Built in 1975, by Jakobson Shipyard of Oyster Bay, New York (hull #454) as the Resolute for the Providence Steamboat Company of Providence, Rhode Island. 

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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 3, 2013 at 9:56 am

glassy or metallic

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Coming home from the Working Harbor Committee Walking tour of the Kill Van Kull yesterday, while onboard the Staten Island Ferry, one of the tour goers pointed out a gargantuan ship passing by and asked me about it. While neither of the ships pictured above and below are that exact vessel, they are of the same class and function. Automobile carriers, they are known to the maritime trade as “Ro-Ro” or “Roll on Roll off” cargo ships, which we’ll be taking a look at this “Maritime Sunday”.

from wikipedia

Since 1970 the market for exporting and importing cars has increased dramatically and the number and type of RO/ROs has increased also. In 1973, Japan’s K Line built European Highway, the first pure car carrier (PCC), which carried 4,200 automobiles. Today’s pure car carriers and their close cousins, the pure car/truck carrier (PCTC) are distinctive ships with a box-like superstructure running the entire length and breadth of the hull, fully enclosing the cargo. They typically have a stern ramp and a side ramp for dual loading of thousands of vehicles (as cars trucks, heavy machineries, tracked units, Mafi trailers, loose statics), and extensive automatic fire control systems.

The PCTC has liftable decks to increase vertical clearance as well as heavier decks for “high and heavy” cargo. A 6500 unit car ship with 12 decks can have three decks which can take cargo up to 150 short tons (136 t; 134 long tons) with liftable panels to increase clearance from 1.7 to 6.7 m (5 ft 7 in to 21 ft 10 in) on some decks. Lifting decks to accommodate higher cargo reduces the total capacity.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One often spots these gargantua moving slowly about the harbor, most often escorted by at least two tugs. Despite their ungainly appearance, the ships are a great deal more stable than they would appear, or so I am told. Researching this post, tales of Ro Ro ships listing as much as 80 degrees in heavy seas without capsizing have emerged. The economic advantages offered by these vessels, however, far outweigh their risks.


EUKOR operates a large and modern fleet of specialized Pure Car and Truck Carriers (PCTC), embracing some of the largest vessels in the world – annually transporting around 3 million cars worldwide, utilizing a global network of offices and agents.

Through continuous expansion of our route network, minimization of transit times, utmost attention to cargo-handling quality and a strong dedication to cost savings for our customers, we strive towards delivering total customer satisfaction. Ultimately, we aim to achieve our vision of becoming the best shipping company for the global automotive industry.

We combine the best of what Korea and Europe have to offer. Having Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors as shareholders (20%) gives us a unique growth platform within the industry. Add to that the shareholdings of Norwegian shipping company Wilh.Wilhelmsen (40%) with shipping experience dating back to 1861 and leading Swedish shipping group Wallenius Lines (40%)- founded in 1934 and pioneers in car carrier operations since the 1950′s -and we have created a company of world class competencies.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Ro Ro’s, it seems, allow vehicles to be driven onto the ship and then back off at their port of destination. This creates a series of efficiencies when delivering automobiles. Time spent at dock is anathema to shipping companies, and the name of the game is to discharge and acquire new cargo in as efficient and expedient fashion as possible. Expediting such matters, and finding solutions to the never ending flow of goods through the port, is what has made New York the 2nd largest port in the United States (although the secondary ranking is something which officials at the Port Authority will argue against, claiming factual rather than statistical primacy over the currently ranked #1 in California).

This is less of a link than a crib from emails which have been passed around recently by members of the Working Harbor Committee. The source of the information is undoubtedly “official” but I can’t tell you it’s origin.

What actually transpires at The Port of New York/New Jersey:

  • Total estimated value of cargo-$176 Billion (2011)
  • 6.752 deep draft commercial ship arrivals (over 18/day)
  • 1st in nation for petroleum product movement
  • 1st in nation for domestic/foreign imports combined
  • 3rd largest U.S. port for containerized cargo
  • 3rd largest Passenger Ferry service in the world
  • 3rd largest Cruise Ship port in the U.S.

In 2011, transported:

  • 85 million tons of general and bulk cargo
  • 5.5 million twenty-foot equivalent units of containerized cargo (15,058 containers per day)
  • 561,965 vehicles
  • Distributed to 89-90 million consumers in a 10- contiguous state area (35% of U.S. population

evasive outlines

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently, your humble narrator was assisting a colleague in the execution of a walking tour of the Newtown Creek when this tug and barge were spotted sliding across the water.

This was “the short tour”, which includes only the tiniest part of Greenpoint’s north side and includes the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant Nature Walk.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Esteemed, the person whom I was helping out has a rock solid grasp on the science and politics of the area, but had asked me to come along just in case anyone wanted to know who Provost Street or Kingsland Avenue are named for. That’s when I spotted this handsome scion of the McAllister towing company engaging in its occupation advancing down the Newtown Creek toward the East River.

The tugboat Resolute, side hitched to a fuel barge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An oft repeated but seldom comprehended statement which those of us involved with the story of this place like to throw out is “a century ago, this was the busiest waterway in North America, and the Creek carried more shipping traffic than the entire Mississippi river”. The official date for that high water mark is actually 1912, so next year we will be correct when saying century.

Your humble narrator, of course, will use the word “centuried” simply because it sounds creepy and cool.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In times past, it wasn’t just fuel barges mind you- vast amounts of mineral products destined for manufacturers like Phelps Dodge, or barge loads of putrescents destined for corporations like Van Iderstines were common sights as late as the 1970’s along the Newtown Creek.

But- like everywhere else in New York City- nobody really makes anything these days, and even the fuel which the Resolute’s barge carries is refined elsewhere.

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