McAllister Towing of Connecticut has initiated launch service on Long Island Sound from Bridgeport, a deepwater port about 50 miles from New York City. The service began in February 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic changed the rules for just about everything. With new protocols in place, the launch has provided a less congested option for crew changes and other services just outside the busiest port on the East Coast.
After McAllister purchased the Providence Steamboat Co. from the Mauran family in 2007, the boat — named for Duncan “Hunter” Mauran — began launch service in Rhode Island. The 65-by-17-foot vessel comfortably accommodates up to 36 passengers, or a tugboat crew and lots of gear. Built by Halter Marine Services in 1970 and rebuilt in 2003, The Hunter is powered by two Detroit Series 60 Tier 2 engines generating a total of 1,200 horsepower.
Capt. Don Fromm closely oversaw the start of the service on Long Island Sound before passing away in June 2020. His legendary 40-plus years in the maritime industry included duty as port captain for the Bridgeport and Port Jefferson Steamboat Co. (BPPJ Ferry), which is owned by McAllister.
With a cargo capacity of 5 long tons, The Hunter is ideal for transporting stores — ranging from spare parts to cleaning supplies to food — to vessels on Long Island Sound. Foodstuffs are often sourced from the Hunts Point Market in the Bronx, N.Y., 50 miles away by truck, with fresh and frozen food transiting from market to ship in less than two hours.
The Hunter’s port of origin is also the Connecticut terminus of the BPPJ Ferry, operating two boats or three depending on the season, with each making at least 10 trips daily across the Sound. Ferry crew are cross-trained so that they can work on The Hunter when needed.
One of the launch’s captains, Sherri Surozenski, learned boat handling on the South Ferry serving Shelter Island, N.Y. “I worked on the ferry during summers in high school, really enjoyed it, and decided at some point to make a career of it,” she said.
Launch crew are trained in all of the jobs related to The Hunter’s operation. “We all pitch in to get the job done safely,” said Justin Ballotte, facilities manager for McAllister Towing of Connecticut. “(Crewmembers) fulfill the positions of captain, mate, deck hand on the launch, or even forklift operator.” Ballotte is a graduate of Massachusetts Maritime Academy and has over 15 years in the maritime industry, including working on tugboats for nine years prior to his current position.
The Hunter operates out of Barnum Landing in East Bridgeport, across from the ferry terminal. The landing is named for showman P.T. Barnum, who was a financial backer of the BPPJ Ferry when it was founded in 1883. Barnum Landing is an 18.3-acre parcel adjacent to a deepwater dock, a combination with great potential.
With offshore wind farm construction in the offing throughout the region, playing a role in the new industry is on everyone’s mind. “We are looking forward to supporting the offshore wind industry with services including vessel support, terminal services and employing future generations of mariners,” Ballotte said. Chris Clark, port captain for McAllister Towing of Connecticut, added that the company is “opening the door to an industry that does not yet exist here.”
Meanwhile, the launch service is up and running, handling personnel transfers, agent interfacing, assisting with emergency services and more. Barnum Landing is being utilized, problems are generating solutions, ideas are being spawned, and of course, stores are getting out to vessels on the Sound.
“We are proud to be serving the maritime industry throughout Connecticut and Long Island Sound,” Ballotte said. •