william h mcallister tug boat presentation september 2010
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William H. McAllister Tug Boat Presentation September 2010

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William H. McAllister Tug Boat Presentation September 2010. Vessel Description and Brief History. Vessel constructed as a steel-hulled Diesel tug described as an oil screw vessel having one deck, two masts, a raked stem and elliptical stern.

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vessel description and brief history
Vessel Description and Brief History

Vessel constructed as a steel-hulled Diesel tug described as an oil screw vessel having one deck, two masts, a raked stem and elliptical stern.

Built during WWII by Livingston Shipping Company, Orange, Texas.

vessel description and brief history concluded
Vessel Description and Brief History (Concluded)

Keel laid on February 12, 1942 and launched on September 18, 1942.

Vessel was used by the Army for inland water service during and after World War II.

Acquired by McAllister Brothers, Inc. of New York, New York in 1949 and renamed the

Wm. H. McAllister.

The tug was used to move barges along the east coast, primarily to and from New York City and Lake Champlain.

vessel specifications
Vessel Specifications

Length: 80.6 feet

Depth: 9.6 feet

Beam: 23 feet

Draft: 10.5 feet loaded; 10 feet ballasted

Registered Tonnage: 140 gross and 95 net



One 720 HP four-cylinder Diesel engine built by the Alco Sulzar Company, Auburn, New York

Cruising speed 10 knots; top speed 12 knots

Cruising range 1,500 nautical miles

Fuel capacity 14,000 gallons, daily fuel consumption 840 gallons at cruising speed

vessel prior to sinking
Vessel Prior to Sinking

The tug was modified by McAllister Brothers to access Lake Champlain via the Albany-Champlain Canal.

The modifications included altering the stack and pilot house to enable the tug to fit underneath bridges located along the canal.

description of accident
Description of Accident

On Sunday, November 17, 1963 the tug was towing an empty gasoline barge in Lake Champlain from Plattsburgh to Albany.

At about 2300 hrs. the vessel struck reef near Port Kent, New York.

According to press reports the tug was crushed aft of amidships on the port side.

The tug sank within five minutes and the eight man crew scrambled aboard the drifting barge.

The barge, with no power of it’s own, drifted ½ mile until it ran onto the NY shore the next day.

description of accident concluded
Description of Accident (Concluded)

Following the sinking press reports stated “the company planned to raise it before the ice set in”.

Divers examined the sunken tug and reportedly some discussions about raising it were held.

No attempts ever made to raise the tug.

The tug lies at approximately 140 feet, making any recovery effort challenging.

Interestingly, no news reports mentioned anything about Diesel being released.

local mariner asks questions
Local mariner asks questions...
  • In 1995, Frank Pabst, a local mariner, raised concerns about Diesel fuel still on-board the wreck.
  • This story aroused local interest on both sides of the lake, including the staff at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum (LCMM) in Vergennes, VT.
  • In 1995 the Essex County NY OEM director referred this matter to EPA for consideration.
the mcallister is discovered
The McAllister is discovered!

During a 1997 lake survey LCMM finds wreck with Side-Scan Sonar.

LCMM decides to conduct underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) survey.

ROV survey conducted in August, 1997.

The wreck was found to be in good condition after 34 years.

The possibility of an oil release from the wreck was referred to EPA in 1996. Subsequent investigation bounced between EPA and NYSDEC until 1998. US Attorney’s office possibly involved too.

In 1998 a diver was hurt while diving on the wreck. This heightened awareness of potential problems resulting from unmonitored access to the wreck.

LCMM staff became concerned about wreck divers and souvenir hunters accessing the McAllister.



Art Cohn, Director of the LCMM, contacted EPA and the Essex County NY OEM, requesting further investigation of the wreck.

In 2000 NYSDEC interviewed tank farm employees in Plattsburgh. Information led to conclusion that there was probably no more than 1,000 gallons of fuel in the vessel’s tanks. EPA concurred with the NYSDEC conclusions.

The conclusions ‘closed’ any further inquiry into whether or not fuel remained in the vessel.

ship wrecks researched as part of the investigation
Ship Wrecks Researched as Part of the Investigation

SS Roy A. Jodrey

Sunk in 140 feet of water, November, 1974 in the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Unknown amount of fuel pumped out 2002.

ship wrecks researched as part of the investigation continued
Ship Wrecks Researched as Part of the Investigation (Continued)

MV Black Rose

Sunk in October, 2009 in the Bay of Bengal

900 tons of oil on-board in “three sealed tanks”.

ship wrecks researched as part of the investigation continued1
Ship Wrecks Researched as Part of the Investigation (Continued)

MV Prestige

Sunk in November, 2002 off the coast of Spain

17 million gals. #2 oil recovered.

ship wrecks researched as part of the investigation continued2
Ship Wrecks Researched as Part of the Investigation (Continued)

USS William Beaumont

Sunk in 1971 in the Sabine Pass within the Gulf of Mexico.

Approx. 16,000 gallons of recoverable oil remains on-board.

ship wrecks researched as part of the investigation concluded
Ship Wrecks Researched as Part of the Investigation (Concluded)

SS Montebello

Sunk December 1943 by Japanese submarine off coast of CA in 900 feet of water with 3.5 million gallons of crude oil.

In 1996 a west coast maritime museum and sanctuary became concerned about a possible oil release and contacted NOAA.

NOAA funded an ROV dive on the wreck 55 years after the Montebello sank.

Wreck was mostly intact and upright, and 2 of 8 storage tank were not compromised.

Plans are being made to pump off the crude oil cargo.



How does oil know it’s under water…

… it doesn’t!

There has to be an opening to allow water in to displace oil.

A sunken vessel can contain millions of gallons of oil.

There are numerous instances where oil contained in old ship wrecks is being pumped out and recovered.

epa s reinvolvment
EPA’s Reinvolvment

In 2010, based on updated information EPA received funding from the Coast Guard’s National Pollution Funds Center (NPFC) to further investigate the site.

Funding available for oil spills and threat assessments pursuant to §311 of the Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

Initial funding of $50,000 was increased to $250,000.

Funding used to for a 3-phase assessment of the wreck site.

phased assessment of the wreck site
Phased Assessment of the Wreck Site

Phase I: Underwater ROV Survey

Phase II: Place divers inside the wreck to access the fuel tanks

Phase III: Remove any oil discovered on-board the vessel

phase i rov survey
Phase I – ROV Survey

EPA partnered with LCMM and a second ROV survey was completed in June, 2010.

The ROV survey was focused on specific parts of the wreck.

Survey revealed that the wreck was intact, in good condition, and there was no sign of oil being released.

potentially responsible party
Potentially Responsible Party

McAllister Towing and Transportation is considered by the NPFC to be the Responsible Party for cost-recovery purposes.

EPA considers McAllister to be a Potentially Responsible Party.

EPA OSC issued a Notice of Federal Interest to PRP in May 2010.

PRP agrees to pump the fuel from the wreck if any is discovered during the manned dive.

next steps u s navy steps up
Next Steps – U.S. Navy Steps Up

News reports of the 2010 ROV dive on the wreck sparked the Navy’s interest.

EPA OSC was contacted by MOBSALDIV Team 2 from Norfolk.

MOBSALDIV Team 2 dived in Haiti and on the I-30 bridge collapse in Indiana.

MOBSALDIV offered to dive on the tug to check the integrity of the tanks as a training exercise.

EPA OSC can’t refuse the offer (Cheap Labor!) .



NAVY offer is too good to be true. EPA OSC is informed that the dive team can’t assist as a training exercise.

It’s difficult to use military services in a non-emergency situation.

Only option is to go commercially.

next steps
Next Steps

EPA will solicit bids from a commercial salvage company to complete the assessment… more expensive, about 2X the cost.

Due to the depth of the wreck site (≈140 ft.) divers will need a decompression chamber on site.

A barge needed for staging the decompression chamber, CONEX box, push boat, and dive platform.

Caught by the calendar! EPA runs out of time in for Phase II.

next steps1
Next Steps

The target date for Phase II of the investigation is May 2011.

EPA, LCMM, and other organizations continue to partner on the Phase II investigation with the goal of putting divers on the wreck of the sunken vessel.


Thanks to:

•Art Cohn, Adam Kane, and the highly professional staff of the LCMM, Vergennes, VT.

•Capt. Fred Fayette, the RV Neptune, Burlington, VT.

•Capt. Frank Pabst, Plattsburgh, NY.

•Don Jaquish, Dir. Essex County NY OEM

one last thought

There is one other item.

EPA did notice an odd thing that will require further investigation…

web site for tugboat