Naval architect and marine engineer Frank Basile died this week. For those in the industry, few would argue that he was one of the best at what he did.
Basile had the knack. He didn’t do it from New York, Chicago, Miami, Seattle or even New Orleans. He opened his naval architecture and marine engineering business Entech & Associates (now Entech Designs LLC) in the mid-1970s along with a shipyard, Modern Marine Power Inc., in Houma, La., about 60 miles south of New Orleans.
He graduated with an engineering degree from Tulane University in 1947. During his life he had connections to Higgins Industries, the shipyard that built the landing craft that carried soldiers to the infamous beaches of the D-Day invasion. (Basile was a naval officer during World War II.) And he worked at Avondale Shipyard in New Orleans.
The first time I talked to him some 20 years ago he listened to a couple of my questions and then asked how much I knew about marine engineering and naval architecture. Not much, I confessed. He didn’t hang up on me. Instead, he told me that he was trained as an engineer but learned to be a naval architect by experience — and that I would get better at interviewing people in the marine industry with experience. Off the record, he was very gracious and patient and generous with his expertise and his time. On the record he kept his words to a minimum. In a 2009 interview with WorkBoat, he was asked to characterize the U.S. oceangoing tug fleet. His answer: “Old.”
He was a master designer especially when it came to towboats and tugs and a pioneer of the ATB tug. Wherever I traveled for WorkBoat over the years, shipyard owners knew who he was, even if they didn’t build tugs and towboats.
“I am so grateful for the last 10 years that I’ve known Frank. I’ve had the opportunity to work for him, learn from him and share in his friendship as many of us have,” said Kimia Jalili, PE, naval architect at Entech Designs. “His memory will be forever in our hearts. Entech Designs will strive to keep his legacy alive as our founder and mentor.
“Despite the loss, there is some comfort and solace to know that Frank lived a long and fruitful life filled with achievement,” Jalili added. “His legacy continues with over 600 vessels of his design currently serving the marine industry all over the world. I wish he would have lived to be 100 years old, written his life story, and continued to bless us with his knowledge, experience and passion for his vocation.”