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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Tug STAMFORD

For Actions on June 23, 1986.

Gallant Ship Award Citation:

On June 23, 1986, fire broke out at the Hess Oil Terminal, Brooklyn, New York. The fire ignited combustibles on the decks of two tank barges, S.T. 65 and S.T. 85, light with gasoline bottoms, moored at Pier 5. Several Coast Guard vessels, New York City fireboats and commercial tugboats responded to a distress call.  At 1920 hours, Tug STAMFORD steamed towards the burning pier. Enroute the STAMFORD was called by the Tug DAVID MCALLISTER at the scene for assistance. DAVID MCALLISTER main engines were disabled, and she drifted under the bow rake of the burning barge S.T. 65. STAMFORD maneuvered alongside the DAVID MCALLISTER, had lines attached and pulled the disabled vessel clear averting a collision with the burning barge. Aware of the Coast Guard’s danger warning but also aware that several New York City firemen were in jeopardy, STAMFORD maneuvered toward the burning barge S.T. 65. The barge, known to have explosive gasoline bottoms, was now engulfed in flames. In high winds, dense black smoke and fire, the STAMFORD maneuvered under the bow of the barge and successfully shackled its hawser into the barge’s tow chains and pulled the barge from the burning pier into New York Harbor where the STAMFORD’s crew along with New York City firefighters extinguished the barge fires.

The expert seamanship and the skilled teamwork of the crew successfully averted a major disaster and loss of life and earned the name of the STAMFORD to be perpetuated as a Gallant Ship.

Levingston Shipbuilding of Orange, Texas, built the tug Thomas Tracy for Avondale Towing Line in 1951. Thomas Tracy was 250 gross tons, 100 feet long and 27 feet at maximum width. Avondale operated the vessel out of New York City. The Red Star towing company purchased Thomas Tracy in 1971 and renamed it Stamford. In 1977, Red Star became Spentonbush-Red Star Companies of Brooklyn, New York. Spentonbush-Red Star continued to berth Stamford in New York Harbor.  On June 23, 1986, Captain Charles Sheahan was at the helm of Stamford when the vessel received word that Pier 5 at the Hess Terminal in Brooklyn, New York, was on fire. Stamford and its crew immediately diverted to assist. 

Pier 5 caught fire on the evening of June 23, 1986. At the time, tank barges S.T. 65 and S.T. 85 were tied to the pier and carried flammable gasoline. The New York City Fire Department and U.S. Coast Guard vessels were joined by commercial tugs at the blaze. The commercial tug David McAllister became disabled after attempting to hitch S.T. 65 and pull it away from the pier. S.T. 65 was now on fire and carrying enough gasoline to fuel a catastrophic explosion. The immobilized tug was in direct danger of colliding with the burning barge and issued its own distress call. Stamford arrived on scene at 1920 and charged in to assist David McAllister. Stamford’s crew skillfully attached lines alongside the stalled tug pulling it to safety. 

Stamford's captain and crew realized that the burning S.T 65 represented an ongoing risk to the firefighters if it remained at the pier. For a second time, Stamford steamed toward the barge, which was now engulfed in smoke and flames. The crew successfully secured a line to S.T. 65’s tow chain, and Stamford towed the barge into the harbor. After getting the barge a safe distance from shore, Stamford joined New York City Fireboats and helped extinguish the flames. 

In 1989, the Maritime Administration presented the Gallant Ship Award to the Stamford for the heroic actions of the tug and its crew. Captain Sheahan received the Merchant Marine Meritorious Service Medal, and the crew received letters of commendation. 

That same year, Spentonbush-Red Star was renamed Amerada Hess Oil Cooperation of New York. Stamford remained with Hess Oil until 1998. That year, Captain Arthur Fournier, of Portland Tugboat and Ship Docking Company, bought Stamford and moved it to Portland, Maine. In 2001, Macalister Towing and Transportation Company of New York, New York, bought Portland Tugboat and Stamford and operated it until 2012. That year the Island Trader Shipping Company in Guyana bought the tug., which continues to operate out of Guyana. 
While in Maine, Stamford achieved a measure of celebrity and competed in annual tugboat races. Captain Brian Fournier donated the Stamford’s propeller as a memorial to Portland’s working waterfront. The propeller memorial is located next to the Portland Ocean Terminal Gateway on Thames Street. A plaque affixed to the propeller reads: 

Measuring nine feet across this propeller is from the Tug Stamford, which was built in 1951 as the Thomas Tracy, then renamed in 1971 to Stamford. In 1998, the tug was acquired by the Portland Tugboat and Shipbuilding Co. of Portland, Maine, which was then acquired by the McAllister Towing & Transportation Co. of NY, NY. In 2012, it was acquired by undisclosed foreign interests to operate under a Guyana flag. She was a single screw tug, rated at 3,000 horsepower. 
 

Last updated: Wednesday, October 6, 2021