Watch-standers ensure smooth sailing at tight Port Everglades

Florida's Port Everglades resembles an airport, right down to a control tower overlooking the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AIW) running between the port and a narrow barrier island that is the John U. Lloyd Beach State Park.

In a view from the bridge of the tugboat Vicki M. McAllister, the Seabulk Towing vessel St. Johns assists containership Asian Sun at the entrance channel of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway inbound to Florida's Port Everglades. (Brian Gauvin photos)

From his perch in the tower, Shawn McCann, assistant harbormaster for Broward County, coordinates the Port Everglades Pilots, McAllister Towing, Seabulk Towing and the ships arriving and departing the harbor. Their vessels sail through the short entrance channel to his left as he looks out to sea.

"From here we can see every berth in the port and right out to the sea buoy," said McCann. "We're the eyes and ears of the port."

Port Everglades, huddled into the south end of Fort Lauderdale, handles an unusually large amount of traffic for its size, including tankers and container vessels. Port Everglades spokeswoman Ellen Kennedy said the port runs neck and neck with Miami as the cruise-ship capital of the world.

The Broward County Sheriff's Office Harbor Unit keeps the peace at Port Everglades in H6082, a 42-foot patrol vessel built by SAFE Boats International of Port Orchard, Wash. The full-cabin Archangel-class boat combines the agility of a response boat with the benefits of a larger patrol vessel.

"On the weekends in the fall we have eight to 12 vessels a shift, 20 to 30 ships in a day," said McCann.

On the starboard bridge wing of outbound containership MSC Flaminia, Capt. Bruce Cumings, co-director of the Port Everglades Pilots Association, stood with the master, Capt. Andreas Neuindorf, as the 984-foot vessel slipped slowly along the AIW past the harbormaster's tower and the cruise-ship terminal.

"There are usually two 1,000-foot cruise ships on the knuckle that we have to slip by," said Cumings. "It gets pretty tight. Some of our ships are twice as long as the channel is wide. But today I have breathing room."

Two McAllister ASD tugs, Erin McAllister and Vicki M. McAllister, and Seabulk Towing's conventional tug, Fort Lauderdale, assisted the ship along the AIW, into the turning basin, and then out through the entrance channel to the Atlantic Ocean.

John Ziegler, a deputy sheriff with the Broward County Sheriff's Office Harbor Unit operates the H6082 patrol boat.

Cumings cites wind and current as his biggest challenges.

"It's a mile and a half out to the sea buoy and we have a pretty strong current that I've seen change five times on a job," he said. "The whole thing is a metaphor for life. I put together a plan and then I have to alter it."

Grant Flavell, pilot boat operator for the Port Everglades Pilots Association, at the wheel of the pilots' vessel #4, a 42-footer powered by two Detroit Diesel 892 engines.


By Professional Mariner Staff