Page 40: of Maritime Reporter Magazine (July 2001)

Read this page in Pdf, Flash or Html5 edition of July 2001 Maritime Reporter Magazine

Diesel Power Annual

Repowering and Niche Marketing at Westar

By Alan Haig-Brown

Fireworks exploded over the Bay Bridge and thou- sands of people crowding the waterfront near the new ballpark gasped in admiration. Some of the best seats for the spectacle are along the north side of Pier 50. home of Westar Marine Services where owner s and employees share a barbecue in honor of the annual dis- play sponsored by a local radio station. But the folks at

Westar are more than passive observers, the tugs that are managing the fireworks barges are contracted from


This annual fireworks event sums up Westar Marine

Services' role on San Francisco Bay. They are the com- pany that takes on all of the niche jobs that others with their large investments in big horsepower and Z-drives can't afford to be doing.

Founded in 1976 by the late "Buzz" Heffron the company is now owned by Buzz's daughter Wendy

Morrow and Mary McMillan who was the original firm's book keeper and office manager. Both women are active in the daily operations of the company and currently serve as vice-president and president, respec- tively. In a continuation of the family nature of the company both husband s work for Westar. When he is not busy barbecuing for company picnics, Mary's hus- band Bill Sherfy is the company's port captain.

The marine area inside the Golden Gate Bridge amounts to an inland sea extending from the Port of

Redwood City in the South Bay. 20 miles north to Oak- land and the Bay Bridge, then another 25 miles north through the Richmond San Rafael Bridge and across

San Pablo Bay to the Carquniez Strait. From that point it is over 50 miles up through Suisun Bay and up the

San Joaquin River to Stockton or nearly 60 miles up the Sacramento River to Sacramento. According to the

San Francisco Bar Pilots, excluding the rivers. "The

San Francisco, San Pablo and Suisun Bays. From the

Gulf of the Farallones to the Sacramento Delta, these waters include nine bridges, twenty ports, two hundred miles of shipping lanes — and countless hidden dan- gers."

The diversity of the company's fleet of nine tugs and five water taxis, defines their success in serving a wide range of niche markets over this large geographical

Mary McMillian (left), president, and Wendy Morrow, vice pres- ident, own and operate Westar Marine Services. area. The largest of their tugs. Orion, does some ship assist work and handles the company's tank barge that lighters molasses, carried as back haul freight by

Hawaiian ships, from Oakland up river to Stockland.

Built for service in the canals south of Chicago, the 3,000 hp, 100-ft. (30.4 m) twin-screw tug Orion has a telescoping wheelhouse that works well when pushing light barges.

Another large model bow tug, Sagittarian, is equipped with a towing winch, while a third large boat.

Solana. has push knees. A large winch has been installed on the foredeck of the Solana to set anchors for the construction industry. Westar has six tugs in the 1,000 hp and under class: Bearcat, Betty L. Warrior.

Kitsap. Wildcat and Mudcat. They also have five water taxis ranging from 26 to 49 passengers.

When Buzz Heffron started the company in the 1970s, he did so to meet a need for delivery of large orders of ship's stores and paint to vessels at anchor in the Bay. Tending to the needs of visiting ships remains an important part of the company's business. In its warehouse at Pier 50, just south of the new Pacific Bell baseball park, they receive miscellaneous supplies ordered by agents for their ships. These are consolidat- ed into plywood totes and labeled with the vessel names. When the ship arrives in port, smaller orders are run out on one of the water taxis, while larger orders are taken out to the ships on one of the compa- ny's two crane equipped barges. These can also pick up garbage for disposal ashore. A separate company main- tains a lube oil barge at the Westar pier and contracts with Westar for towing services to the ships.

Since the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the authorities in

San Francisco Bay have introduced stringent tug escort requirements for petroleum product vessels. This has led to the advent of fierce competition among compa- nies with Z-drive and cycloidal drive tugs. But smaller tankers and tank barges, while requiring escort, don't require the most expensive technology and rates. This has left another comfortable niche for the entrepre- neurs at Westar. They have contracts with barging com- panies like Sause Brothers as well as some smaller tankers.

Westar has always maintained a central position in the Bay area construction industry. With the extensive seismic upgrades to the Bay Area bridges, this work has grown. With their tugs they handle construction company barges, with their own barges they transport materials to the site and with their water taxis they move personnel to work the work site and ashore after their shift.

When the State of California, long a leader in reduc- ing air-pollution, announced the Carl Moyer Program to reduce Nox emissions, Westar Marine Services decided to get on board. The program was supported by an appropriation of $50 million dollars for the 2000/2001 fiscal year. A significant portion of this amount was allotted for Carl Moyer Program incentive grants, as a means to reduce emissions from heavy- duty engines.

These grants cover the incremental cost of cleaner

Skipper Dana Sargeant aboard Ms. Katie, which was named for a much loved company cat. The vessel was repowered with the

Cummins N14 that have the same 360 hp rating as the two-cycle engines that were taken out, but are considerably lighter.

Maritime Reporter & Engineering News -om the state through the Carl Moyer Program to reduce Nox emissions, Westar Marine Services was able to more cost- iwer its fleet (middle photograph). Pictured on the left is a pair of new Cummins N14s aboard Wildcat.

Maritime Reporter

First published in 1881 Maritime Reporter is the world's largest audited circulation publication serving the global maritime industry.