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Tug Grace McAllister

For actions on June 2, 1973

Gallant Ship Award Citation:

About midnight, June 2, 1973, the Tug GRACE MCALLISTER received a message that the C/V SEA WITCH was about to ram a loaded tanker in New York Harbor. Immediately, a drifting mass of flames was sighted. One of the first vessels to arrive on scene, the GRACE MCALLISTER searched for survivors as the fire grew in intensity. Anticipating explosions and falling debris, the Master maneuvered the tug windward of the blazing ships locked together by the collision. One by one, eleven men were spotted swimming desperately to escape burning oil spreading over the water. Using life rings and heaving lines, the crew pulled the exhausted, oil-soaked seamen through flames to safety. After transporting the survivors to the Quarantine Station, the tug returned to the scene. Throughout the night all hands fought to contain the fire. At first light, receiving permission to proceed, the GRACE MCALLISTER placed a line on board the containership and successfully separated the grounded, burning vessels to permit more efficient fire fighting operation to continue.

The courage, initiative, expert seamanship and teamwork of her Master, officers and crew in rescuing eleven survivors from a burning sea and separating two burning vessels have caused the name of the GRACE MCALLISTER to be perpetuated as a Gallant Ship.

The tugboat Grace McAllister was built by Dravo Corporation of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and delivered to McAllister Brothers Towing Company in 1968.

After midnight on June 2, 1973, while off Pier 15, Staten Island, New York, Grace McAllister’s crew heard the danger signal whistling from SS C.V. Sea Witch, and received a message that the vessel was about to ram another ship in New York Harbor. C.VSea Witch, a Maritime Administration C5-S-73b type containerized cargo vessel built in 1968 for American Export Isbrandtsen Lines, had lost steering while departing the harbor and rammed into the tanker SS Esso Brussels, loaded with two million cubic feet of Nigerian fuel oil, igniting an enormous blaze. Grace McAllister immediately steamed to the scene

Grace McAllister was the first vessel on scene, arriving before the collision happened. Soon after the collision, the tug’s captain maneuvered the vessel to the windward side of the burning ships while crewmembers searched the dark, flaming waters for survivors and threw life rings and heaving lines to them. Shortly after, Grace McAllister’s crew pulled men from the water to the safety of the tug. Once other vessels arrived on scene, and seeing no more survivors in the waters nearby, the tug transported the men to an aid station on Staten Island. Afterwards the tug returned to the burning ships and spent the next six hours using the fire monitor to help in the firefighting efforts. Grace McAllister eventually placed a tow line on C. V. Sea Witch and pulled it apart from the tanker to assist the firefighters.

In addition to Grace McAllister receiving the Gallant Ship Award, the master of the vessel, Captain Cesare Del Greco, received the Merchant Marine Meritorious Service Medal.

As of 2015, Grace McAllister is still part of McAllister Towing and Transportation’s Fleet and is based in Jacksonville, Florida.

Updated: Monday, October 29, 2018