Chief engineer awarded seamanship trophy

Keeping his head as the flood waters rose around him in the engine room from a gaping hole in his ship’s hull have earned Chief Engineer Charles W. Brown the 2000 American Merchant Marine Seamanship Trophy.

Capt. Robert Safarik presents the American Merchant Marine Seamanship Trophy to Jody Greene, wife of recipient Chief Engineer Charles W. Brown, who was back at sea on the same ship he helped save.

The trophy, presented annually and administered by the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y., recognizes demonstrations of extraordinary seafaring by U.S. Mariners.

Brown was selected for his leadership and maritime skill in helping his ship safely reach port after it suffered a major structural casualty. Brown was serving as the chief engineer aboard SS Green Island, a LASH ship owned by Central Gulf Lines, New Orleans, and operated by Waterman Steamship Corp., New York, when the ship was holed and began flooding.

The incident occurred on the night of Feb. 16, 1999, as Green Island was battling its way through 40-foot seas driven by 50-knot winds 150 nm northeast of Bermuda. The pounding from the heavy seas caused the ship’s interior web frames to carry away and break through the outer plating, opening a 30-by-90-foot hole in the Green Island’s hull.

Seawater began pouring though the hole and flooded the ship’s starboard wing tank, causing a 20° list. Water also began flowing into the engine room through the ventilator shafts.

Brown quickly assessed the situation and went to work with his assistant engineers, Garrett Harrington and Robert Reading, to keep the ship in trim and control the flooding. Brown stayed in the engine room throughout the night, directing the casualty control efforts. He successfully managed the cross pumping of fuel and ballast to right the vessel while combating the rising waters in the engine room.

Working with Green Island’s master, Capt. Jay W. Frank, Brown kept the vessel afloat and in trim for two days until the ship reached Bermuda with its cargo intact.

Brown’s wife, Jody Greene, accepted the trophy on behalf of her husband at a luncheon ceremony Dec. 16, 2000, at the Merchant Marine Academy. Brown was unable to attend the ceremony because he was back at sea aboard the repaired Green Island.

The trophy, an ornate silver cup, is on permanent display at the American Merchant Marine Museum on the Academy’s campus. This was the 29th presentation of the award since it was established in 1962.

By Professional Mariner Staff