New Orleans-based Crescent Towing’s fleet of harbor tugs did a little of everything before, during, and after Katrina — the boats battled fires, delivered pilots to ships, rescued ships, and, yes, even performed normal ship-assist duties. The company’s employees continued working through the crisis, even after its headquarters building was rammed by a bulk carrier that broke free during the storm.
“We never missed a beat,” said Scott Cooper, president of Crescent Towing. “My men and I were here for over two weeks. A ship took out our office as well as putting two of our tugs on the river batture (on the west bank in Algiers). The first few days around here were hectic as ever. We pulled ships off ground, fought fires, rigged makeshift gangways, and held in breakaways. No tug was not working during the storm and after.
”Our guys were amazing,” Cooper said of his 50 or so employees who worked around the clock. “I told them it’s family first and tugs second, but most of our employees stayed and hardly anyone called for relief.”
In all, Crescent had 14 tugs available during the storm. The bulk carrier that rammed its office building on the river’s west bank damaged two others.
Most importantly, however, the tug operator worked closely with local pilots to keep Mississippi River ship traffic flowing.
“We were a one-stop shop,” said Cooper. “We acted as pilot boats, fought fires at the city docks. Everything was out of the ordinary and nothing was out of the question. You didn’t think about it. You just did it.”
Crescent tugs battled several fires at riverfront wharves right after the storm.
“The fires lasted for two days, with as many as five or six Crescent tugs on them. Men manned the fire monitors as well as fire hoses on deck. We fought the fires for 13 straight hours. I was personally on the Point Clear (5,000-hp Z-drive tug) working with them. It was amazing how people came together. But I really didn’t do anything. The others went the extra mile.” — David Krapf