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Have you ever seen these huge ships that regularly sail in and out of our harbor?

Wallenius Aida underway with her vehicle ramp stowed. Photo: ©Mitch Waxman

They have no portholes to speak of, and look like gargantuan floating boxes, their mysterious contents shrouded within.

They are called “Ro-Ro’s” by the industry… but why?

Courageous Ace with Charles D. McAllister. Photo: ©Mitch Waxman

Ro-Ro’s are vehicle transport ships.

Vehicles, unlike other cargo, are not packed into shipping containers and loaded by gantry or transfer cranes. Instead the automobiles are driven right onto the ship and then off again, once they reach their port of destination.

A Moran tug assists Wallenius Tancred passing Robbins Reef Lighthouse and the Statue of Liberty. Photo: ©Mitch Waxman

“Ro-Ro” is short for “roll-on, roll-off”, a descriptive term used to describe car carrying cargo vessels. Loading and unloading vehicles in this way is very effective in getting the gigantic carriers in and out of port quickly and efficiently.

Eminent Ace. Photo: ©Mitch Waxman

I wonder how many Ro-Ro’s cruise in and our of our port daily. I never fail to see at least one every time I am out on the water.

Asian King at dock with the vehicle ramp extended. Photo: ©Mitch Waxman

What about you? Have you see any Ro-Ro’s lately? Share them with us! Post your photos at the WHC photo pool on flickr.

And to all who celebrate, a very Happy Easter and Passover to you and your loved ones!

by Mai Armstrong for Working Harbor Committee, Thanks to Mitch Waxman / Newtown Pentacle for the generous use of his photos.





The nice weather days we had last week were really welcome, but that blast of April snow was NOT. Still, I’ve had some quiet days shooting this week, with lots of activity to shoot.

Penn No. 4 sporting her new “Kirby” paint job. Photo: ©John Skelson

MSC Marta…Out to Sea. Photo: ©John Skelson

McAllister Sisters with one “On the Hip”. Photo:©John Skelson

Mary Gellatly. Photo: ©John Skelson

Kimberly Poling. Photo: ©John Skelson

Launch ABC 1 delivering supplies to a ship. Photo: ©John Skelson

Tanker SFC Pechoria in Stapleton Anchorage, Robert E McAllister ducking out behind. Photo: ©John Skelson

4 Days later at IMTT Bayonne. Photo: ©John Skelson

Sea Tow to the Rescue. Photo: ©John Skelson

St Andrew with some new paint. Photo: ©John Skelson

Weddell Sea “On the Wire” out to sea. Photo: ©John Skelson

Ruth M Reinauer. Photo: ©John Skelson

Gramma Lee T Moran meets Dace at the fuel dock. Photo: ©John Skelson

All photos taken the week of 4/13/14. Until next week… John Skelson.

All photos by John Skelson for the Working Harbor Committee

Big News!

Graves of Arthur Kill”  will make its World Premiere on Wednesday, May 7 at the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival. The 32 minute documentary – directed by Will Van Dorp, aka Tugster – will be one of 5 short films shown on Opening Night.

There will be a prescreening reception which starts at 7 p.m. and the films begin at 8 p.m. Click here for tickets.

Brooklyn Heights Cinema
70 Henry Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Subway: A/C to High Street or 2/3 to Clark Street


World Premiere

Documentary, 32 min. USA
Directed by Will Van Dorp

Though it’s been described as an “accidental museum,” the graveyard of ships at New York City’s southernmost point isn’t on any tourism maps. The site is owned by a metal recycling company and visitors are turned away. But this bone yard begs for attention. Rusty tugboats sit lopsided in its muddy waters. Rotting wooden skeletons of old barges dot the shoreline. Collectively, these crumbling vessels seem like haunting maritime sculptures in a massive art installation.

Will Van Dorp is a photographer, author and English professor at Union County College in Elizabeth, N.J. He is also a knowledgeable observer of what he calls New York City’s “sixth borough,” the waters in and around the Port of New York. He chronicles much that happens in these waters in his “Tugster” blog, which was featured in a 2011 New York Times profile.


Ship spotters, there’s a new tug on the harbor!

Welcome Harley Marine NY‘s new tug HMS Justice. She joins HMS Liberty and HMS St. Andrews, providing petroleum transport services in NY Harbor.

Tug HMS Justice. Photo via

Marine Log: The 2,000 hp HMS Justice is the fifth vessel in this class and joins the New York fleet of two tugboats—HMS LIberty and  St. Andrews—and four 29,396 bbl double-hull petroleum barges. HMS Justice will provide petroleum barge transportation services in New York Harbor.

HMS Liberty. Photo by ©Will Van Dorp / tugster

Four of the vessels in this class—the Alamo, Fury, Silver and Stardust—are employed in the Harley Marine Gulf fleet. The vessels are each 75 feet in length, have a 29 foot 9 inch beam and a depth of 9 feet and 11 inches.

The vessel is equipped with two Tier II-compliant K38M Cummins engines producing 2,000 horsepower, two Cummins auxiliaries and Nabrico Hydro Electric DF-156-40-116-HEBK winches. Her design is well suited for the demands of harbor service with its “flanking rudder” technology.

HMS St. Andrews. Photo via Harley Marine.

Jonathan Mendes, interim General Manager of Harley Marine NY says, “The HMS Justice is a welcome addition to our growing New York operation. She will enhance our local business while servicing customers safely, reliably, efficiently and responsibly.”

Read more at Marine Log or download the full press release (PDF) here.

Anyone have photos of her yet? Post your shots in the WHC flickr Photo Pool!

by Mai Armstrong for Working Harbor Committee,

Well, as luck would have it, NO photos of the USS Slater arriving at Caddell’s Staten Island.

She departed Albany, Sunday morning at about 8:45 AM; and arrived and turned into the Kill van Kull at 3:30AM Monday. Not a good time for photography! I hope to be able to get some photos of her soon, and so here are this week’s photos.

Reinauer was the big mover on Wednesday morning, 5 of them. Also, US Army Corps of Engineers boats were on the job in the KVK. Strangely though, while I was there, NO Moran, McAllister or Vane tugs passed by.

Stephen Scott Reinauer at IMTT Bayonne. Photo: ©John Skelson

Zachery Reinauer in Push Gear, Stephen Scott in the background. Photo: ©John Skelson

Ruby M, dropping a barge in Bayonne. Photo: ©John Skelson

Reinauer Twins outbound in the KVK. Photo: ©John Skelson.

Meredith C Reinauer west in the KVK. Photo: ©John Skelson

Maersk Kentucky. Photo: ©John Skelson

USACE Hudson. Photo: ©John Skelson

USACE Hocking. Photo: ©John Skelson

USACE Hayward. Photo: ©John Skelson

Haggerty Girls. Photo: ©John Skelson

Emily Ann, ex Brandon C Roehrig. Photo: ©John Skelson

Until next week… John Skelson.

All photos by John Skelson for the Working Harbor Committee

Photo via USS Slater facebook page

Many of us have been waiting for the arrival of the USS Slater for many months. Captain Maggie Flanagan, marine educator and WHC steering committee member, first told me about her impending visit to Caddell’s at WHC’s end-of-the-year meeting, back in December.

Ice and snow bound. Photo via USS Slater facebook page

The WWII destroyer escort was supposed to make the trip in January, but the frozen grip of one of the coldest winters in recent years pushed that back to February… and then March… [Slater Signals]

This dry-dock project is being completely funded by private donations – There is no government or public money involved. You can help! Go to and hit the “Donate” button! Photo vis USS Slater fb page.

Now with the ice safely melted, the USS Slater will be making her way down the Hudson River from Albany to Staten Island today!

The grand, grey lady will be escorted by two tugboats and the journey downriver is expected to take 12+ hours all told.

Tug Margot. Photo via

Ed Zajkowski posted this tip for tracking the warships journey online on USS Slater’s facebook page. Slater has no transponder, so to follow her progress down the Hudson River, go to – filter out all vessels except TUGS, and type in the name “MARGOT”. Her transponder should be active Sunday AM.

I just got word from John Skelson that the transport is underway! Hopefully she reaches the KVK before darkness falls! It’s a gorgeous day, perfect ship spotting weather! I hope you all share your photos with us in WHC’s flickr photo pool – I can’t wait to see them!

Underway! Photo via USS Slater facebook page

Did you know? The USS Slater’s dry-dock repair project is being completely funded by donations from folks like you! You can help by donating here.

by Mai Armstrong for Working Harbor Committee, hat tips to Capt. Maggie Flanagan, John Skelson, John McCluskey and Will Van Dorp for all their help with research and intel.


A “Self Propelled, Cable Laying Barge” under tow, passing through the KVK on her way to Martha’s Vineyard, was this week unusual catch. The tug Navigator had her under tow through the harbor and Long Island Sound.

What is it??? Photo: ©John Skelson

Self Propelled Cable Laying Barge C.B. Rockland. Photo: ©John Skelson

Detail of the rig. Photo: ©John Skelson

Out drive on the barge. Photo: ©John Skelson

Tug Navigator had the barge in tow. Photo: ©John Skelson

Franklin Reinauer east in the KVK. Photo: ©John Skelson

Sarah Ann westbound. Photo: ©John Skelson

Coast Guard 26 footer on patrol, Robert E McAllister in the background. Photo: ©John Skelson

Ellen S Bouchard. Photo: ©John Skelson

Diane B, barge in Push Gear. Photo: ©John Skelson

If all goes well, next week I should have photos of the Museum ship USS Slater, heading for Caddell Ship Yard. She has been Ice Locked on the Hudson preventing her from making the trip from Albany.

Have a good week… John Skelson

All photos and video by John Skelson for the Working Harbor Committee

26 mph winds, 30 degrees, cold on the water! I haven’t taken many photos this week as I’ve been away upstate for a few days visiting my mother for her 99th birthday, no water nearby to shoot.

Today, back on the water all is quiet, a couple of tankers docking in Bayonne, and not much tug traffic. I’ve also included a video, from last week, of tugs turning a tanker around on the KVK.

Laura K Moran crossing the harbor. Photo: ©John Skelson

NYPD “SafeBoat” “Det. Robert Parker. Photo: ©John Skelson

Pegasus entering the KVK. Photo: ©John Skelson

Resolute at Robbins Reef. Photo: ©John Skelson

Bow Sea docking at Con Hook Bayonne. Photo: ©John Skelson

Energy Panther docking at Bayonne, Moran tugs assisting. Photo: ©John Skelson

Doris Moran docking Energy Panther. Photo: ©John Skelson


Tanker Turning on the KVK. Video: ©John Skelson

That’s all for now, have a good week.

All photos and video by John Skelson for the Working Harbor Committee

John Skelson on the KVK. Photo: Staten Island Advance/Ryan Lavis

Staten Island photographer, John Skelson has made the news again! Kudos to our friend and Friday’s ship spotting guest-blogger, here at the Working Harbor Committee blog.

Ellen McAllister and Pacific Reliance. Photo: ©John Skelson

John’s striking ship spotting photography on the Kill Van Kull has caught the interest of local and national media alike.

Tug Crow. Photo: ©John Skelson

Ryan Lavis/Staten Island Advance: When local photographer John Skelson bought his first camera, in 1970, he loaded it with film, and headed to his favorite spot along the shoreline of Staten Island, just under the Bayonne Bridge. 

Left Coast Lifter at the WTC. Photo: ©John Skelson

He spent countless hours there snapping away at the colorful variety of ships cruising along New York Harbor and the Kill van Kull — from massive container ships to freighters, tugboats and oil tankers. Today, not much has changed.

MOL Encore about to swallow up Miss Niz. Photo: ©John Skelson

Container ships “carry about every type of merchandise you can imagine” from all over the world. Some transport expensive cars, while others are laden with orange juice. 

Suez Canal Bridge assisted by Charles D McAllister arriving at sunset. Photo: ©John Skelson

“What you see coming through here, most people don’t even know exists, but just about every bit of commerce that comes into the United States passes through the Kill van Kull,” Skelson said.

Read more at the Staten Island Advance here… and check out more of John Skelson’s photos here…

by Mai Armstrong for Working Harbor Committee

Some days I am lucky to see a tugboat in an hour, other days a parade of ships, the later being today.

A new load of Rock Salt for Atlantic Salt, ZIM Monaco loaded with Summer Fashions, and the latest electronics. McAllister tugs turning the 750 foot tanker Uraga Princess around 180° from her pier in Bayonne, to head out to sea (video to follow next week). Of course Tugboats, quite a few passing, including Mary Gelatly to add to last week’s list of Mary’s..

ZIM Monaco bound for Port Newark, Ellen McAllister and Mary Gelatly behind. Photo: ©John Skelson

Susan Miller, work barge in push gear. Photo: ©John Skelson

Twin Tube. Photo: ©John Skelson

Ever Precious arriving with a load of Rock Salt, Catherine Turecamo and Gramma Lee T Moran assisting docking. Photo: ©John Skelson

ATB Galveston, and barge Petrochem Producer at IMTT Bayonne. Photo: ©John Skelson

Mary Gelatly west in the KVK. Photo: ©John Skelson

Meagan Ann leaving the Fuel Dock, Bayonne. Photo: ©John Skelson

Robert IV lurking about. Photo: ©John Skelson

Robert E McAllister preparing to move Uraga Princess. Photo: ©John Skelson

Tanker Uraga Princess underway. Photo: ©John Skelson

Morgan Reinauer inbound for Reinauer’s yard. Photo: ©John Skelson

US Army Corps of Engineers Hocking. Photo: ©John Skelson

That’s all for now, have a good week.

All photos by John Skelson for the Working Harbor Committee

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