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TUG TEXACO FIRE CHIEF

For actions on June 2, 1973

Gallant Ship Award Citation:

At 0040, June 2, 1973, responding to a radio report that two ships had collided and were on fire at an anchorage in the Port of New York, the Tug TEXACO FIRE CHIEF alerted the U.S. Coast Guard that she was approaching The Narrows and sent a MAYDAY to commercial vessels in the area to proceed to the scene and assist. En route, all hands were called on deck and emergency equipment was readied. Burning oil spread over the harbor as the blazing SS ESSO BRUSSELS and C/V SEA WITCH, locked together by the collision, drifted toward The Narrows Bridge. The Master maneuvered the tug, searching for survivors in the burning water. From both starboard and port side, the crew tossed lines and hauled seven men through a ring of flames to safety and administered first aid. Leaving the scene, the TEXACO FIRE CHIEF landed the rescued crew members of the two vessels at the Quarantine Station and returned to volunteer her assistance until dismissed by the U.S. Coast Guard at 0745.

The courage, resourcefulness, expert seamanship and teamwork of her Master, officers and crew in effecting the rescue of seven seamen from a burning sea have caused the name of the TEXACO FIRE CHIEF to be perpetuated as a Gallant Ship.

The tug Texaco Fire Chief was built in 1967 by Jakobson Shipyard of Oyster Bay, New York, for Texaco Marine.

Very early in the morning of June 2, 1973, Texaco Fire Chief‘s captain received a report of two ships ablaze in the anchorage of New York Harbor. The fire ignited when C.V. Sea Witch, a Maritime Administration C5-S-73b type cargo vessel built in 1968 for American Export Isbrandtsen Lines, lost steering while departing the harbor and rammed into SS Esso Brussels, a tanker loaded with two million cubic feet of Nigerian fuel oil, sparking the enormous blaze.

Texaco Fire Chief and its seven-man crew immediately headed to the accident from Pier 5 at Staten Island, where it had recently undergone repairs. While steaming to the scene, the tug’s captain frantically radioed for help from any vessels nearby. He later described the scene as “two ships completely engulfed in flames with the fire reaching above the bridge [Verrazano-Narrows Bridge].” The tug’s crew pulled four survivors of Esso Brussels and three from C.V. Sea Witch from the water. After determining that none of the survivors needed emergency medical attention, the captain continued to search for survivors until more vessels arrived. The tug then headed to an aid station on Staten Island with the survivors before returning to the scene.

In addition to the ship receiving the Gallant Ship Award, Texaco Fire Chief‘s master, Captain Francis A. Gallagher, received the Merchant Marine Meritorious Service Medal.

In 1989, Dann Ocean Towing acquired the tug and renamed it Ruby M.  As of 2015 the tug is registered at the Port of Tampa, Florida.

Updated: Thursday, November 8, 2018