High bow of a light tanker makes quite a sail, expecially when backing off the dock against the wind. The Francis Roehrig happend along, assisted briefly, then both went off in the tropical storm for their day's work. (Photo: Don Sutherland) behind the panels. The same thing happens between the concrete deck and steel. She'd sat for six years, and it had been seven since her last drydock." So when she came out in March 2002, the Kristin Poling, ex-Capt. Sam, was something of a vessel renewed. What's Old is New Again Whether the Poling & Cutler tankers are really old boats, or simply boats that were begun a long time ago, is a question of perspective. "Everything's been replaced three times," says Capt. Poling, onboard the M/T John B.Caddell. There are things you wouldn't replace on an old boat unless you had to -- doors to the rooms, cabinets in the galley, the old oil cookstove blasting away -- they've been around a long while. But this doesn't include the Main Engine and ancillary machinery. And how many of the steel plates put on the hull in 1941 still remain? Probably none. There's still a wheel in the wheelhouse, and it's still used to steer the boat. But the A.I.S. and the digital navigational displays are there too. "We were up to four vessels including the barge," says Capt. Poling. "Now that we had our fleet fully utilized and could make some money instead of just spending it, we could give some thought to the future. We want to keep our original customers happy, but 2015 isn't far off." It doesn't cost a lot more to move a larger tank of oil than it does a smaller tank. "We approached several of our customers with long-term propositions first for 60,000, then 80,000-BBL tankbarges. We've nailed-down an agreement for a long-term contract, with a major oil company." Acquiring the Kimberly Poling was seen as a step essential to a future of barge operations. "There's a big shortage of horsepower in New York harbor," says Capt. Poling, "and there have been times when no tugs were available to us. We've lost work owing to the shortage of boats on the harbor. The only way we could be then the depth of the waters brings somein complete control is to do everything thing to bear on the price of a barrel delivourselves and not farm out the towing " ered. And draft is sometimes a problem The 3000-hp Kimberly Poling looks when it shouldn't be. Take East Rockaway like a spacious and comfortable means Inlet. toward that end. "The previous masters "I've gone in and out of that inlet as were husband and wife," says Capt. Pol- deckhand, mate, and captain," says Capt. ing, with a nod toward the extra-width Poling, "and I've had my share of harrowberth in the captain's room. ing experiences. It always happens in the But with OPA 90 compliance not an channel." Says Mr. Cutler, "we've learned option, the destiny of the old single-hull since the recent incident -- " last Novemtankers is unclear. Previously-owned tugs ber 10, when the Kristin grounded and got and shipyard space are both scarce nation- stuck in place, battered by storms for twowide, yet it's time to have plans for 2015. and-a-half days, " -- in meetings with the What, exactly, should take over from sin- Corps, what used to be an annual dredging gle-skin tankers at their existing capaci- of the East. Rockaway inlet has been ties? pushed to every two years at best." It New York's seems to be a budwaters are not tranget issue. quil, and there "We all know the remain advantages place continuously to tankers. The shoals," says Capt. arrival of new small Poling. "In the old tankers in the days, we were all region makes that in constant compoint clear. But munication with with the added other vessels who expense and regutransited the inlet lation of tankships, Just after she was built, the John B. Caddell went to when the majors the economics of the Navy for her role in World War II. She has otherwere there. We replacing the Pol- wise been operated by a Poling-named company for exchanged infor66 years. (Photo: Don Sutherland.) ing and Cutler fleet mation -- what with new tankers had changed, what are not favorable. "The Kristin today to watch out for. Now most of them are would be too expensive to build new," gone and the only exchange of navigasays Capt. Poling. tional information is with commercial Pinboats? More than one harbor tug has fishermen. They go outside the channel if been reborn as a mini-ATB, combining the channel shoals, but we wouldn't want the advantages of tugs and of tankers. to do that -- not prudent. "We've given that a lot of consideration," If you ground outside the channel, says Capt. Poling, "and have broached the you're liable -- not a big problem with a subject with customers. We've contracted load of clams, but with oil and gasoline with a noted marine architect to design a that option's not available." pin unit with very unique and specific A loaded tanker grounded in East Rockparameters." away during days of raging storms becomes news, of course, sometimes less Stormy Weather chivalrously than others. "This isn't the If the cost of moving more product is first time the Kristin Poling has wound up not so different than that of moving less, on the bottom," one report concluded. "It ran aground in the same inlet in December of 2004 and got stuck in the sand of Newark Bay in November of 2004." End of story. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc? The newspapers have to say something. "We've had three groundings," says Mr. Cutler, "all inside the channel. The channel is subject to change, and there's no effective monitoring system to let us know. If we detect shoaling we call the Coast Guard, and they'll resound the channel and reset the buoys to reflect where the best water is. This was done following the recent grounding of the Kristin. The Coast Guard set a new buoy inside of what had been the previously marked channel." If there's an upside to the issue, it's that the shoaling in question tends to be soft sand. Spill response plans were in place lest the Kristin leak during her two-and-ahalf days aground, but despite enough pounding to put her in the shipyard for a couple weeks, there was no spill. The John B. Caddell, at 66 the youngest of the Poling & Cutler tankers, was built the same year the U.S. entered World War II. She served the cause in the U.S. Navy and is qualified to show three chevrons on her stack. Framed in her galley is a blurred copy of a letter of commendation signed by Admiral James Forrestal. One of the factors deciding that war, the poignant one for an old tanker, is that the victor caused the enemy to run out of fuel. Coal was still king eighty-seven years ago, when the nine-year-old Socony corporation launched the Socony Buffalo. Then oil as we knew it had its reign. It will be double-hull this, and bio-that hereafter, with terms and conditions to come. The Coral Queen has seen most of it, and is scheduled to see more. How much more? Who knows what could happen in eight years? She'll be ninety-five when OPA 90 takes full bloom, and she'll have a tale to tell. She'll talk about how she survived storms and hard times and the march of technology, and maybe regulations too. 24 · MarineNews · February, 2007
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