By Ken Rossignol
THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY
SALISBURY, MD. — Given the huge expanse of the Chesapeake Bay region, with all its mighty tributaries, such as the Magothy, the Patuxent, Potomac and Choptank, it only figures that Maryland is the home of a shipbuilder. The old Davis Shipyard on Solomon’s Island was well-known world-wide for its custom sailing vessels in the last century, as was Trumpy’s custom yachts in Annapolis and the Liberty ships of Bethlehem Steel during WWII.
Now the Chesapeake Shipbuilding Co. has been building various vessels that sail the seas around the world, specializing in ocean-going tugboats, utility vessels, fireboats, ferries and small to medium size passenger cruise ships.
A large commercial tugboat company, Vane Brothers Company, touts its new Sassafras Class Tugs, built by American Shipbuilding, as the newest additions to its fleet. Beginning with the Sassafras the tugs are equipped with twin Caterpillar diesel engines. The Sassafras class tugs, Charles Burton, Elk River, Hunting Creek, Oyster Creek, Quantico Creek, the vessels are ninety feet long and have a beam of thirty-two feet.
The large tugs draw thirteen feet of water and accommodates a crew of seven in what the firm refers to as “comfortable accommodations”.
The Oyster Creek was delivered by Chesapeake Shipbuilding in 2011 and is the fifth in the class of tugboats being custom built for Vane Brothers. The tug is described by its owners as being a coast-wise 3,000 horsepower towing vessel and is named for Oyster Creek in Maryland.
Chesapeake Shipbuilding reports that a ninth and tenth of class tugs have been ordered by Vane Brothers.
In addition to building ocean-going tugboats, Chesapeake Shipbuilding has been sending new cruise ships to ply the storied Mississippi River. The firm delivered the Queen of the Mississippi last year and in 2015 will deliver to American Cruise Lines a second brand-spanking new paddlewheeler. Two more in the series are on order. The firm has been conducting sea trials in the Wicomico River after the vessel was launched at its Salisbury shipyard.
The new paddlewheelers have a capacity of 150 passengers. The Queen of the Mississippi is the first new ship built for passenger service on the Mississippi in over twenty years.
The American Cruise Lines has had a series of small cruise ships built by American Shipbuilding including the Independence and the American Star. The Independence was built in 2010 and the American Star in 2007. Special theme cruises such as a Chesapeake Bay Crab Cruise supplement regularly scheduled cruises that take passengers into small ports never visited by large cruise ships.
One such cruise stops in Norfolk, Baltimore, Kitty Hawk, Charleston and Myrtle Beach while another takes passengers on a tour of the Great Rivers of Florida. New England ports compose others and the firm also operates on the west coast and Alaska.
Chesapeake Shipbuilding also builds water taxis, custom launches, fire and rescue boats and cruise ship launches. The firm reports that its vessels are U. S. Coast Guard certified and can be built from stock designs or fully customized. The water taxis and launches can also be custom fitted with bow ramps for easy unloading of passengers, which can be quite an advantage for seniors and disabled passengers.
Passenger and vehicle ferries, oil supply boats, restaurant boats and coastal cruise ships are among the firm’s output of new ships.
With more than thirteen acres of land and several new buildings and bulkheaded area, the firm is able to build two hull sections and join them together for launching with the superstructure completed afterwards.
The firm is currently advertising for welders, fabricators, ship fitters, marine engineers, mechanics, foremen and ship superintendents and say that they are willing to provide relocation assistance.
For those with a penchant for trips to further ports, two cruise ships operate out of the Port of Baltimore, the Carnival Pride and the Grandeur of The Seas. Both operate various itineraries to Bermuda, the Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexico and Canada from Baltimore.
The American Star is currently in port in Newport, Rhode Island as Hurricane Arthur heads up the coast. Click here to seek location of this ship.