Modern Merchant Marine Industry

Summary

The Merchant Marine is comprised of the ships owned by private individuals and corporations and the men and women that crew them. Though these crewmembers become can be called upon to serve the military during wartime, they are primarily civilians that transfer passengers and cargo locally and internationally. Some of the most common ships within the merchant fleet are Roll-on, Roll off, or “RoRo;” Dry Bulk; Break Bulk; Containerships; Tankers; General Cargo Ships; and Cruise ships. The US owns nearly 1,000 of these various ships, only 286 of which are US-flagged, or registered in the United States. Thousands of crewmembers serve onboard American-flagged vessels, and tens of thousands of more support their efforts on the shore in stevedoring, longshoremen positions, and the transportation industry.

The United States Merchant Marine is overseen mostly by two agencies – the Martime Administration (MARAD) and the United States Coast Guard (USCG). The USCG regulates the design, construction, licensing and manning of ships, as well as safety.

MARAD is responsible for supporting the merchant marine in many commercial matters, as well as coordinating merchant marine interests with regulatory bodies, both domestic and international. They also own the vessels of the National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF) and Ready Reserve Fleet (RRF), both of which are on reserve to be activated by the government in support of wartime shipping and transportation requirements. MARAD also supports the merchant marine in several areas of ship financing.MARAD is responsible for the safety, regulations, shipping, transportation, shipbuilding and many other aspects of the maritime industry, and they also own the vessels of the National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF) and the Ready Reserve Fleet (RRF), both of which are on reserve to be activated by the government in support of wartime shipping and transportation requirements.

In order to recruit and train future employees in the maritime industry, the federal government chartered the US Merchant Marine Cadet Corps in 1936 and gave them their permanent home in the Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York in 1942. These Midshipmen graduate with a US Coast Guard license as a Merchant Marine Officer, a Bachelors of Science degree, and a commission into the Navy Reserves allowing them to pursue careers in the military, at sea, or on shore.

U.S. Coast Guard

United States Coast Guard

One of the most significant players in the modern maritime industry is the US Coast Guard (USCG). Founded in 1790 and known initially as the Revenue Marine and the Revenue Cutter Service, the USCG became the branch of service we know today in 1915 when Congress combined the Revenue Cutter Service and the Life-Saving Service. In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt transferred the Lighthouse Service to the Coast Guard and seven years later Congress also placed the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation under the auspices of the USCG.

Since that time, this organization has been dedicated to saving lives at sea, enforcing maritime law, maintaining the nation’s navigational aids such as lighthouses and buoys, and overseeing marine licensing and vessel safety. Since the security and safety of the nation is one of the main functions of the Coast Guard, they serve under the Department of Homeland Security during peacetime and are transferred to the Department of the Navy during war or at the order of the President.

Houston is part of the 8th District of the Coast Guard, which is the largest district encompassing 28 states and stretching from the Appalachian Mountains to the Rockies and from the Mexican border and Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border in North Dakota. This district includes 1,200 miles of coastline, 10,300 miles of inland waterways, 6,500 oil and gas wells, and 130 mobile off-shore drilling units. District 8 also employs over 4,000 active duty and reserve personnel, 6,000 auxiliarists, and 288 civilian employees. In addition, with two of the largest ports in the country, Houston and New Orleans, this region imports two million barrels of oil and one million tons of cargo every day.

USCG Shadbush

This US Coast Guard inland buoy tender was commissioned in 1944 and served in Mobile, New Orleans, and Galveston until her sale in 1976. At 73 feet and 80 tons with a maximum of 9 knots, her main responsibility was to maintain aids to navigation, such as lighthouses, buoys, fog signals, and day beacons. In 1968 she assisted in the search for survivors after the cutter White Alder collided with a freighter in the Mississippi River. Though three of the crew of twenty were rescued, the others remained entombed with the cutter under the river bed of the river.

The Flying Enterprise

The Flying Enterprise

On December 21, 1951 the C-1 cargo ship Flying Enterprise of the Isbrandtsen Line departed from Hamburg, Germany with its cargo, forty crewmembers, and ten passengers. Within days, the sailors and their Danish Captain, Kurt Carlsen, found themselves hundreds of miles from shore in the midst of the worst storm in decades. As a result of the pounding wind and waves, the ship was cracked amidships but the crew managed to keep the ship afloat and temporarily repaired the crack. Less than two days later, a “rogue” wave possibly as high as 60 feet struck the already battered Flying Enterprise. The ship was picked up from the sea on the swell and dropped back on her side listing to port to such a degree that she never recovered.

After sending out an SOS, Carlsen was able to transfer his passengers and crew to the troop ship General A.W. Greely and the freighter SS Southland, but the captain himself refused to abandon his ship. He remained with the Flying Enterprise for days as the tugboat, Turmoil and it’s First Mate Kenneth Dancy attempted to slowly tow the listing ship to Falmouth, England. Though their bravery made headlines around the world, their efforts proved to be in vain. The weather deteriorated in early January and the tow line broke on January 10, 1952. Carlsen and Dancy abandoned ship later that day, and the Flying Enterprise sank just 42 miles from its destination.

Flying Enterprise II Scrapbook

In 1956, William Heierman, aged 13, sailed on a cruise around the world on the Flying Enterprise II under the command of Captain Kurt Carlsen of the original Flying Enterprise. Mr. Heierman generously loaned his photos and documents from the cruise to the HMM.

Carlsen Beer

Given to young William Heierman by Captain Kurt Carlsen of the Flying Enterprise, this beer bottle depicts the ship as she listed to port in the Atlantic Ocean. This special label was a product of the Ceres Brewery of Aarhus, Denmark, homeland of Captain Carlsen.

Tugboats

Tugboats

Tugboats are vessels designed to push or pull larger vessels in situations where they cannot or should not operate under their own power. Built for maneuverability and with a high power to tonnage ratio, tugs can easily push or pull ships several times their size to guide them in narrow or crowded conditions or provide propulsion to those without power due to design or malfunction. Seagoing and harbor tugs are often designed to connect to their assigned vessel either through a winch or a “notch” system that allows connection, whereas river tugs are more often built with a flat bow to simply push a barge. Regardless of their design or body of water, tugs are essential to the operations of water transportation providing power to the powerless and ensuring the safety of all vessels in close quarters.

Smit Nederland

Built in Holland in 1979, the Nederland is 93 feet long, 29 feet wide, and has a draft of over 12 feet. With a top speed of only 12 knots and a radius of just over 2,000 miles, the tug’s main features are her propellers, which are designed with reversible blades, and two rudders, which ensure maneuverability. The Nederland was designed to assist the large ocean-going ships in the harbor of Rotterdam, Holland and also to provide deep-sea salvage assistance with her 27-ton pulling power..

Smit Loire

Built in 2000 and registered under the flag of Bermuda, the Smit Loire is one of the 408 vessels in Smit’s fleet. Her basic function is towing and mooring assistance using her winches and towing hook, which have a combined pulling power of 115 tons.

Director

This tractor tug designed to assist large ships with docking and maneuvering within a harbor, was one of the first six tugboats ever built in the US with the Voith-Schneider Propeller system (VPS). Built by the Tacoma Boatbuilding Company for Foss Maritime Company, the Director featured propellers first introduced in Europe in 1927. The Director helped introduce the tractor tug concept as well as the VPS system to the United States when she was built in 1982. The VPS propellers provide both steering and thrust through the use of propeller blades that protrude from the bottom of the vessel and individually and collectively rotate on a vertical axis. This system provides high levels of maneuverability making it particularly effective in harbors and for ferries and river traffic that operate in narrow waterways. Though only 100 feet long and 36 feet wide, the Director boasts a 3,000hp engine and features a 37 metric ton Bollard Pull.

New Orleans

New Orleans

This 192 meter ship was built for Rickmers Linie in China and was launched in 2003. With a combined lifting capacity of nearly 800 tons, a cargo capacity of over 36,000 cubic meters, and a container capacity of 1,888 TEU, the New Orleans specializes in heavy lifting and breakbulk, or large non-containerized, cargo. In addition to her regular transportation duties, the New Orleans also had the distinction of transporting pieces of the International Space Station in 2007 when she carried the Japanese Experiment Module Kibo from Yokohama, Japan to Port Canaveral, Florida. The New Orleans also participates in the bi-weekly “Pearl String Round-the-World Service,” offering passengers the chance to sail around the world on a traditional cargo ship stopping in roughly twenty different ports.