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Big Apple’s new harbor tanker makes the captain’s job easier

Jul 27, 2016 03:00 PM
Chandra B, a 79-foot double-hull harbor tanker, underway in Kill Van Kull near Bayonne, N.J. The vessel was designed by Farrell & Norton Naval Architects and was constructed by Blount Boats.

Chandra B, a 79-foot double-hull harbor tanker, underway in Kill Van Kull near Bayonne, N.J. The vessel was designed by Farrell & Norton Naval Architects and was constructed by Blount Boats.

In the predawn hours, even before the New York Water Taxis start their morning runs out of Brooklyn’s Erie Basin, the yellow passenger vessels’ new neighbor has its engines fired up, pilothouse lit and crew’s hot coffee poured. 

The Big Apple’s most modern harbor tanker, Chandra B, went into service in September 2015. The 79-foot double-hull vessel, operated by American Petroleum & Transport Inc., replaced a longtime New York Harbor fixture, the single-hull Capt. Log.

Capt. Rich Naruszewicz, for years the familiar face at the helm of the circa-1979 Capt. Log, now enjoys a much more advanced and powerful vessel. Chandra B boasts a pair of Cummins QSL9 engines, two Cummins Onan gensets, a responsive steering system, a pair of ZF W325 thrusters and a suite of propulsion-performance and diagnostic monitors in the pilothouse. 

“Welcome to the Starship Enterprise,” a delighted Naruszewicz said, referring to his new, very high-tech power systems and console displays.

The most critical improvement over the old bare-bones boat is Chandra B’s maneuverability, a much-appreciated feature whenever Naruszewicz needs to pivot in tight quarters to ease up alongside other vessels that need fueling. 

Chandra B’s captain, Rich Naruszewicz, enjoys the modern navigation and performance-monitoring electronics.

“She’ll spin on a dime with this power helm,” Naruszewicz said while turning the wheel with little effort. “You don’t need to crank this thing six times. If you go three-fourths of a turn, she’ll turn 30 degrees. With this rudder power, you can get anywhere and do anything.”

Chandra B, designed by Farrell & Norton Naval Architects, was built at Blount Boats in Rhode Island. The navigation electronics are a Furuno wheelhouse suite that includes radar, chartplotter and GPS. Much of the Cummins engine and generator functions can be controlled or checked right there in the pilothouse.  

“On this monitor here, it will tell me the volts and cycles and the temperature and oil pressure,” the captain said. “We have these automatic fuel shutoffs for the port and starboard.”

During one springtime work shift, the 660-hp Chandra B showed every bit of its worth. Facing the second-lowest tide of the month, Naruszewicz sailed the bunker tanker up the Hudson River and then had to maneuver into various docks to deliver fuel to tour boats and to a tank barge moored at a waterfront power plant.

In the case of the ebb tide, the captain’s local knowledge made a big difference too. Chandra B departed from its berth in Erie Basin and made its way through The Cut into Buttermilk Channel. Naruszewicz knows that the Statue of Liberty, in addition to welcoming throngs of immigrants to New York Harbor, has long served as a waypoint for mariners exiting the Brooklyn basin.

James Bragoli, the tankerman person-in-charge, prepares the Quick Connect alongside Hornblower Infinity’s fuel fill.

“When you get underway, you’ve got to go straight toward the statue,” he explained. “There’s a jetty to starboard, and once you’re abeam of it, you’re OK.”

While passing Governors Island, the tanker kept a safe distance from the tugboat Catherine C. Miller steaming up the East River and the downbound Staten Island Ferry Alice Austen. Once in open water en route toward the west side of Manhattan Island, the highly experienced Naruszewicz knew to stay as close as safely possible to the Battery wall, especially on this day. 

“We’re fighting this massive tide here,” the captain said, eyeing a display monitor that revealed Chandra B’s rather pathetic speed of 3.7 knots. “With the Hudson River, the ebb tide usually comes down the Jersey side, so you stay along the Manhattan side — stay close to the wall — and you pick up a few more knots.”

The track line along the Battery kept Chandra B out of the teeth of the outgoing tide and enabled a higher speed without the need to increase the engines’ rpms. Naruszewicz pointed out how quiet the Cummins engines were with minimal vibration, compared to the old 170-hp Capt. Log.

“This boat runs solid. She’s like a Sherman tank, and this is as loud as it gets,” the smiling captain noted. When Capt. Log accelerated, “my fillings would fall out,” he said. 

Naruszewicz gets a hand from Hornblower staff Evers Cornejo and Miguel Arroyo to stretch the fuel hose over one vessel to fill another.

Chandra B’s first stop on this morning was Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises on Manhattan’s West Side. With the aid of his tankerman person-in-charge, James Bragoli, Naruszewicz aimed for the first vessel on the day’s fueling schedule. 

“Yeah James, the water is low, man,” Naruszewicz said as the harbor tanker eased its way alongside Circle Line Queens. “Everybody depends on us to show up, come hell or high water. Hell or low water today!”

With a draft of just 1.6 feet and 5 feet at the stern light-boat and 8 feet fully laden, Chandra B is up to the task. Still, the crew doesn’t want to push the envelope and will avoid the shallowest areas where the props kick up mud. If the slip is simply too shallow to take a chance, Naruszewicz breaks the news to the customer that the tanker will need to come back another time for that particular fill-up. 

At Circle Line, though, there was enough water to get up alongside. 

“You always leave your rudder midship and just maneuver with your engine, that’s all,” the captain said. With the tanker’s port bow up against Circle Line Queens, Bragoli first deployed a pair of Taylor Polyform U.S. fenders and then tied up the after spring line, constantly picking up the slack. Next he tied up the bow line and breast line. Finally, when the boats were parallel, he finished up with the stern line.

Naruszewicz and Evers Cornejo exchange paperwork at the conclusion of the fuel delivery to Hornblower Infinity along the Hudson River.

Once secured, the fueling process began. Circle Line likes to keep its vessels’ fuel tanks 80 percent full of ultra-low-sulfur diesel. That meant a delivery of 1,200 gallons to Circle Line Queens. Bragoli and Naruszewicz deployed their Quick Connect connection and 2-inch flame-resistant rubber hose and hooked it up to the tour boat’s fuel fill, which is easily accessible through the side of the hull. 

Chandra B, which has six fuel holds, carries two fuel hoses. One is a 117-foot-long rubber hose made by Continental AG, with a bursting pressure tested to at least 600 pounds. The boat’s other hose is reinforced with wire and made by Goodyear Tire & Rubber Comany. Two Flomax pumps transfer the fuel, and a Veeder-Root meter and ticket printer tots up the amount and generates a receipt. 

Next to receive fuel was Circle Line Brooklyn, requiring Naruszewicz to back down and achieve a 180-degree turn in a 150-foot space using the hydraulic steering system.

“Securité, Chandra B, shifting from the south side Pier 83 to the north side, Chandra B,” Naruszewicz announced to Vessel Traffic Service on his Standard Horizon VHF radio. 

After taking care of Circle Line Brooklyn, the Chandra B crew traded paperwork with the Circle Line staff, stowed everything and headed downriver to the Hornblower Cruises fleet. 

To get alongside Hornblower Infinity, Naruszewicz inched up alongside the dinner boat and let the current do the rest of the work. 

Marcos Carter, a tankerman on the Gellatly and Criscione Services tank barge GCS 230, checks the cargo level with Bragoli.

“You see how strong this tide is? Sometimes the tide pushes us up against the other boat,” he said. “But sometimes you really have to work it in because the tide somehow creates an eddy and bounces us off there. If you’re not careful, you can get caught with our stern under his stern and you can do damage.”

The crew’s worst hazard along the Hudson River is the commuter ferries that are asked to sail slow-bell during the fueling operations but sometimes don’t, especially when the ferries are behind schedule. Naruszewicz once suffered a serious hand injury due to a ferry wake while disconnecting from a fuel fill.

The next vessel that needed diesel was Bay State, which Chandra B could not reach directly because Bay State was tied up behind another Hornblower vessel. Two fleet employees — mechanic Evers Cornejo and facilities worker Miguel Arroyo — led the hose through a railing and carried it over the first vessel to load Bay State. Total delivery at Hornblower Cruises: 1,850 gallons. 

The next challenge for Naruszewicz was a barge that stores standby diesel fuel next to a Consolidated Edison (Con Ed) gas-powered electric plant. The Gellatly & Criscione Services tank barge GCS 230 is moored near 57th Street at Pier 98 on the Hudson River. Con Ed stores a load of diesel at the location in case of a malfunction in the natural gas systems. The barge is surrounded by containment boom as a spill precaution. Naruszewicz doesn’t want to take any chances of fouling.

“You gotta let it out of gear so you don’t suck that boom up around the shaft and the propeller,” he explained on the approach. Chandra B safely transferred 1,500 gallons.   

Chandra B’s port-side Cummins engine and generator.

On a previous day, Chandra B loaded up with 42,000 gallons of fuel at Center Petroleum up the Passaic River on the New Jersey side. That’s when the Furuno universal AIS comes in handy — to get an early view of the location of other vessels transiting Port Newark and around the bends in the river and kills. The new tanker, whose capacity is 56,000 gallons versus Capt. Log’s 19,000, doesn’t need to detour to the New Jersey terminal as often.

Also on the New Jersey side, Chandra B occasionally delivers diesel fuel that powers the ventilation system at the Holland Tunnel. Frequently, the tanker calls on the East Side of Manhattan, where a long-term refurbishment project is underway to reinforce the Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) East River Drive, a major highway along the riverbank.   

“We ping-pong all over the harbor. These people need fuel,” Naruszewicz said. “Up at the FDR, they’re constantly running out of fuel and we have to drop everything and go up there. They run compressors, heaters, generators, pumps, everything to support diving services.”

His old single-hull friend Capt. Log, a victim of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, was taken out of service last year and was immediately scrapped. Chandra B is all steel, with spacious under-deck arrangements and man-overboard rescue stations on each side. The captain said the heating and air-condition systems keep the wheelhouse much more comfortable than he was used to. 

“We went from a Ford Pinto to a Cadillac Escalade,” Naruszewicz said with a grin. 

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