Fast, Efficient Action by Seafarers Prevents Environmental Damage


Mach 2012


Back to Issue


SIU members played a vital role in preventing what could have been a major oil spill in an important waterway at the end of last year. A diesel leak aboard the Horizon Discovery had the potential to spill into Newark Bay if not for the actions of an SIU shore gang.

On Dec. 30, the Discovery was docked in Port Elizabeth, N.J. That morning, the crew of the ship was off conducting drills for the U.S. Coast Guard, leaving the vessel temporarily unattended. At around 9:30 a.m. the diesel leak was discovered. A gangway man checking on the ship lifted a power pack and noticed that the fuel tank ruptured (with a foot-long crack) and diesel was spilling all over the deck. Upon hearing the news, the SIU shore gang, led by Bosun Jimmy Niotis, sprung immediately into action.

“We ran as fast as we could all over the ship, trying to find supplies to stop the flow,” said Niotis.

The Seafarers were able to contain and eventually stop the spill with limited outside help, preventing what could have been an environmental mishap in the heavily populated Newark Bay area.

“I truly believe we prevented a major catastrophe from happening,” said Niotis.


Others at the port that day credited the SIU team for their professionalism, speed, and poise when handling the crisis.

“The immediate, fast, effective, and professional response by the members of the shore gang was critical to our ability to control this substantial spill and to contain the oil on board,” said Robert N. Anderson, port relief officer with the International Organization of Masters, Mates, & Pilots (MM&P), who was on the scene. “There is no way I would’ve been able to keep this oil from entering Newark Bay by myself.”

Niotis chocks up the effective response to his fellow Seafarers, who he said were the epitome of good seamen in times of crisis.

“They did exceptionally well,” said Niotis. “I’m so proud of my guys and the SIU standbys who were there that day. Everybody did more than their fair share; in fact, everyone gave more than 110 percent to stop the diesel from going over the side. They knew we were under pressure and that we needed to stop the oil, and we did.”

Company officials took note of the fast action and its benefits. Wally Becker, Horizon Lines ship superintendent, was on board and he, too, commended the SIU crew for their actions, pointing out that the Coast Guard was so impressed that they didn’t even get involved themselves.

“I’m damn glad they were there,” said Becker.

Training plays a big role in having the preparedness necessary to respond to an oil spill, according to Niotis, and the opportunities for Seafarers to train for safety is a leading factor in the success of the Port Elizabeth shore gang’s efforts.

“It helped that knowledgeable, trained people were around,” said Niotis. “Without that, we might not have been able to stop something as major as this.”


Members of the shore gang who participated in the rescue included George DiCanio, Chief Cook Cecilio Suarez, FOWT Orlando Reveron, GUDE Edwin Ruiz, and Justin Loddico.

The standbys included OMU Gregory Clotter and FOWT Andre MacCray.



Share |