By Walter E. Blessey Jr.
I have a lot to be proud of these days regarding the performance of Blessey Marine’s vessel crews.
Recently, in two separate incidents, three of our vessels participated in saving lives and thwarting off potential serious incidents on one of the nation’s busiest and dangerous sections of the Mississippi River.
The first incident occurred on Nov. 13 at approximately 1430 hours. Capt. Mark Haury, on the towboat Walter E. Blessey Jr., had just docked and un-faced his barges at an adjacent refinery, when five whistles rang out from the Chalmette/Algiers Ferry in New Orleans. It was then that Capt. Haury heard distress calls over the radio from the ferry’s pilot indicating that he was having engine problems and was in need of assistance. The crew of the Walter E. Blessey Jr. immediately sprang into emergency mode as they caught two quarter lines on the ferry’s port stern and started to work the ferry towards the east bank landing. With a southbound ship and a northbound seagoing barge in the immediate area, Capt. Haury pushed the ferry towards the left descending [east]bank and out of harm’s way. But, with no current to work with and no visual on where to land the ferry, Capt. Haury figured he was in for a long, slow battle.
Enter the Charles W. Clark, another Blessey Marine tow that happened to be delivering a package to the Walter E. Blessey Jr. “They showed up just in time,” said Haury. “Pilot Chris Wise of the Charles W. Clark put his vessel on the bow of the ferry to serve as a bowthruster to counter the wind while I nudged the ferry towards the bank.” With the help of the vessel’s electronic navigation system and good old-fashioned towboating skills, these two vessels were able to safely land the ferry at its dock, where its passengers were able to disembark. There were no reports of any injuries.
The second incident occurred on Oct. 23 when the quick actions by the crew of the towboat Claudia Harold saved the life of a fellow mariner. The Claudia Harold was docked at a local refinery, along with another towboat company’s vessels.
Blessey deckhand Steven Kelly was on one of the barges in the tow when he heard a splash. Kelly didn’t see anyone fall in, but immediately radioed to the wheelhouse. Kelly and tankerman Ricky Brown then launched the vessel’s skiff. Within five minutes, they had safely rescued a deck crewmember from the other towboat company’s vessel that had fallen overboard.
The rescue efforts made by our crews are in keeping with the highest standards of our industry. Our mariners went into harm’s way at personal risk to help others in peril. They should be very proud of their actions. I certainly am.
Walter E. Blessey Jr. is the chairman and CEO of Blessey Marine Services Inc., Harahan, La.