SIU Celebrates Jones Act Ship Launch


October 2015


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Just a few months after a robust celebration of the first SIU-contracted Marlin Class containership, attendees gathered again in San Diego for round two.


The SIU joined in welcoming the Aug. 29 launch of the Perla del Caribe, built by union workers at the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard for TOTE Shipholdings. The vessel will be operated by TOTE subsidiary Sea Star Line and will be crewed by members of the SIU and the American Maritime Officers, respectively. It will sail in the Jones Act trade.


SIU Executive Vice President Augie Tellez and SIU Vice President West Coast Nick Marrone represented the union at the recent ceremony. Earlier in the summer, the first ship in the class, the Isla Bella, was christened by Sophie Sacco, wife of SIU President Michael Sacco.


Billed as the first containerships powered by natural gas, the Perla del Caribe and Isla Bella will operate between Jacksonville, Florida, and Puerto Rico.


Phil Greene, president of TOTE Services (the parent company’s vessel-management component) said of the SIU and AMO, “These organizations have a rich and distinguished history of supporting the U.S. Merchant Marine with the best maritime personnel in the world, ensuring TOTE is able to deliver safe and reliable service day in and day out. We are proud of our strong partnership with SIU and AMO.”


General Dynamics NASSCO President Fred Harris, a former union mariner, stated, “The Marlin Class ships are the most fuel efficient, eco-friendly containerships in the world. As the first of their kind, these ships represent the next generation of U.S.-built ships and we at General Dynamics NASSCO are proud to be leading in that effort.”


Also at the more recent ceremony, Tim Nolan, president of Sea Star Line, noted, “The ability to innovate and lead in the maritime sector is something that comes along once in a lifetime…. These ships and the technology they employ will redefine what is possible in the shipping industry both here in the United States and abroad.”


Tim Engle, president of Saltchuk, TOTE’s parent company, also spoke at the christening. He pointed out that “TOTE is one of six lines of business that together create a national transportation network, moving cargo by land, sea and air. Saltchuk continually invests in our operations, ensuring that we provide safe, stable and proud environments for our more than 7,500 employees to come to work each day.”


His daughter Emma Engle, part of the third generation of Saltchuk ownership, served as the vessel sponsor and performed the christening and ceremonial launch.


NASSCO described the 764-foot-long ships as measuring around the same length as two-and-a-half football fields apiece. In announcing the August christening, the yard noted, “The ships will reduce particulate matter by 98 percent and carbon dioxide emissions by 72 percent, the equivalent of removing more than 15,700 cars from the road, making them the cleanest cargo-carrying containerships in the world.”


The Perla del Caribe is expected to enter service in the first quarter of 2016 while the Isla Bella is slated to sail before the end of this year.


Kevin Graney, vice president and general manager of General Dynamics NASSCO, added, “To NASSCO shipbuilders, a launch signals the near completion of the construction of a ship; it’s when the ship enters the ocean for the very first time. It’s a moment of pride for the thousands of men and women who built the ship – piece by piece, block by block. For the Perla del Caribe, it’s no different, and when the ship is delivered we will be very proud to say, ‘We built that.’”


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