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image The crew of ATB Legend/750-2 stands proudly before their vessel during the christening ceremony. Photo Mitch Traphagen

In Tampa, Crowley Marine christens American-built vessels

By MITCH TRAPHAGEN

TAMPA – If someone tells you that nothing is made in America anymore, Crowley Marine Corporation has something to show you; a very large example that proves that America does indeed still make things — big things.

On Sept. 27, corporate executives mingled with crewmembers as Crowley Marine formally christened a new 330,000-barrel petroleum tank vessel in Tampa. The entire vessel, a barge that is 95 feet longer than the 100 North Tampa building, the tallest skyscraper on Florida’s Gulf coast, and a powerful tug to ply the barge through the bay and gulf waters, was made entirely in the U.S.A. And more than that, the ship’s crew of 14 and the permanent Tampa shore-side crew of four are all American citizens.

The tugboat, Legend, and barge, 750-2, are the second articulated-tug-barges (ATB) of their class in the Crowley Marine fleet of 17 vessels. The first ATB, Legacy/750-1, was christened in November of last year. The third, Liberty/750-3, is currently under construction and is expected to be in service in the first half of 2013. The vessels work primarily between U.S. Gulf and east coast ports, including regular calls to the Port of Tampa. In total, Crowley vessels discharge 163 million gallons of petroleum products each month in Tampa.

The 750-2 barge was constructed at the VT Halter Marine shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi, the tugboat Legend was constructed by Dakota Creek Industries of Anacortes, Washington. Together, the ATB measures 674 feet in length.

The christening ceremony at the Port of Tampa included representatives from Crowley Marine, the shipyards that built the vessels, Crowley clients and vessels sponsors who conducted the age-old, time-honored tradition of formally christening the vessels with breaking bottles of champagne on the bows. A celebratory reception followed at the nearby Florida Aquarium. The sponsors were Joan Grune, wife of Crowley Vice President Rob Grune, christening Legend and Christina Qualls, wife of Greg Qualls of Marathon Petroleum Company, christening 750-2.

Rob Grune of Crowley said, “This is a celebration. This is a time to celebrate success and to recognize the hard work of a lot of people.”

Referring to Crowley Marine’s relationship with Marathon Petroleum, he said, “We work together to ensure best practices and to ensure safety. We are confident that, like the first of its kind, Legend/750-2 will also exceed industry standards for the safest possible transportation of petroleum and chemical products.”

Greg Qualls of Marathon Petroleum backed up that statement by saying, “Over our 11-year partnership, Crowley has delivered more than 11.5 billion gallons of product to Marathon and has released less than one gallon into the water.”

That track record apparently includes attention to small details, as well. The christening ceremony began with instructions for how to exit the pier in the event of an emergency and pointing out the fire extinguishers that had been mounted on the poles of the tent erected for the ceremony.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, the captain and crew of Legend/750-2 were introduced and received a standing ovation. Qualls said they were a vital part of the successful relationship between the two companies and he thanked them for being part of the team.

The ceremony ended with all eyes on the vessels, solemn prayers for the success and safety of the vessels and the crew, and the loud clanks of glass on metal and champagne streaming down the bows, eliciting cheers from the guests.

Legend/750-2, however, didn’t get to bask in the celebration for long. By 6 p.m. that night, the vessel was already at work and underway, bound for Garyville, Louisiana. A working vessel, yes, but also a ship of souls and dreams sailing into the setting sun in the Gulf of Mexico, proudly bearing the label, “Made in the U.S.A.”

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