Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Explosion rocks Gadani scrapyard, many killed and injured

Another disaster in overseas scrapping. Yet our US-flag ships still end up over there. Government ships especially should not be exported for scrap, yet the government broke several laws in letting STORIS be exported for scrap in Mexico. I have heard that US-flag ships named after Medal of Honor winners are also being broken overseas. More on that when I get it...


Summary of CG FOIA Appeal

I have worked through the latest (but hopefully not final) Coast Guard FOIA response I referred to the other day. This relates to the Coast Guard FOIA I submitted on Nov. 4, 2013, almost THREE FULL YEARS ago this coming Friday. This appeal process has gone on for about a year, with the CG making the last release on 1 September 2015 and my response submitted in response on 13 November of last year.

There are 68 pages of documentation and correspondence streams. Some of the pages deal with information we already knew about. There are some new documents, however, including discussion about the sale, her status as "PCB-free" and issues with the buyer. This includes two efforts by the Coast Guard to regain custody of the ship when the buyer continued to ignore the deadlines for removing her from storage at Suisun Bay. GSA instead took the buyer's side and rebuffed the Coast Guard.

As you may recall, the Coast Guard sent information to me and called their effort complete. However, I pointed out in an appeal that I had documents in my possession that involved STORIS and the Coast Guard, documents that I had received from other government agencies and individuals. These records were not included in the materials released by the Coast Guard, so it was clear that the CG had withheld or otherwise overlooked records related to the ship. There was also the serious matter of claiming to have looked for records related to the ship in a location that we knew, as a matter of procedure, would have been purged of those records. 

The recent materials involved correspondence largely with Jeff Beach, the manager of retired boats and cutters. The response did not address most of the appeal points I submitted, such as the documentation from other sources and the missing/overlooked correspondence from senior CG officials. And not one word of explanation about my contention that the CG was dishonest in saying that there were no records to be found related to STORIS and haz-mat remediation based on a search of a facility where the records would not be kept any longer.

There is a ridiculous amount of redaction throughout the documentation. The Coast Guard officials assert that the redaction is necessary to protect the privacy of those whose names were redacted. The problem is that we are not asking for private information related to these Coast Guard officials and officers. This isn’t matter of invading anyone’s privacy. These are people who need to be identified for their roles and involvement in the excessing and disposal of STORIS. Their actions within this context is official action within their official capacities as part of the Coast Guard. One of the main purposes of FOIA is to prevent the government from hiding information about its operations and to provide accountability. Hiding the circumstances around the actions of government employees and officials to prevent a range of response from embarrassment to prosecution is certainly not a legitimate reason for the government to withhold information. This flies in the face of what FOIA is intended to do. This redaction is an overreaction and overreach to my request.

I will be submitting another appeal of this mess. All this waiting for almost a year for just a few answers. I have until 5 January, so there is some time yet to refine a response. It will take some time to sift through this mess as presented by the CG. Losing STORIS was an embarrassment for CG officials when it occurred, but their response since then is only compounding their actions and making them appear worse.

To call out particularly important sections, pay attention to pages 52-59. These are pages of correspondence that we have not seen before between CG and EPA officials discussing the issues surrounding the PCB testing performed on STORIS for her Environmental Assessment to allow her decommissioning.

These discussions show that the CG did not understand current regulations for ship disposal related to PCBs. EPA officials questioned the language in the documentation and the procedures followed for the documentation and disposal of the ship. This process was followed incorrectly and there should have been serious penalties for the parties involved. The CG made huge mistakes in this situation. We know from other FOIA releases that MARAD officials also questioned what was going on with STORIS and her PCB-free status but they did nothing about it either, despite being the federally designated agency for ship recycling. EPA didn’t act to intervene with the ship’s export when she was still en route and in the yard in Mexico. And once STORIS was out of the country, we raised additional concerns but there was no follow up, and none of these officials/agencies did what was supposed to have been done. Instead, STORIS was destroyed.

This likely illegal export of a ship containing encapsulated PCBs is exclusive of what we later found to be the illegal export of a U.S. Federal Government vessel in violation of Section 3502 of the Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act of 2009.

Incidentally, we are still waiting for documentation from EPA. I submitted my FOIA appeal to them in May 2014, some 17 months ago.

Cover sheet: https://goo.gl/TmRuv8. The content is here: https://goo.gl/wrU2hj.

P 1-5 – The seriously flawed PCB testing report created in 2000 that was later used at the ship’s decommissioning in 2007 to satisfy the Environmental Assessment requirements. This includes the simple one-page cover letter that declared STORIS free of regulated PCBs. This document has been shared in several other FOIAs in unredacted form from other agencies. I also received this document literally just after the ship departed from Suisun Bay and it served as a basis of our emergency appeal to prevent the ship from being allowed to exit U.S. waters. This has been discussed before, so I am pulling comments from earlier releases to explain… This is lengthy up front, but important to refresh everyone’s memory and to set up the context for that very important release of documentation later in this packet on pages 52-59.

The reason that this report is significant is that cutters like STORIS, ACUSHNET, MACKINAW, the 180s, etc. were constructed during World War II and all used similar coatings, lubricants, wiring and other materials that would have contained PCBs as a matter of the pervasive use of these substances. The likelihood that any of these ships were truly “PCB-free” when released by the Coast Guard is seriously open to debate. Even claims that these ships are “free of regulated levels of PCBs” is questionable. Sending them to another country for reuse is pretty much ignored as an exemption to the PCB laws. Different federal disposal laws cover asbestos and lead paint. According to the Coast Guard, the only ships that have issues with PCBs are some of the WMECs from the 1970s because of a particular type of cabling used on them. I’ve been told by ship recycling experts there’s no way that it’s that limited.

A good read of the physical qualities and pervasive use of PCBs on obsolete vessels is here: http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monograph_reports/MR1377/MR1377.appc.pdf

STORIS was supposedly free of regulated PCBs. She tested positive for PCBs for her 2006 Environmental Assessment but with the removal of 20 linear feet of black foam pipe insulation in January 2007, she was miraculously declared PCB-free with that one-page fax cover sheet. This did not cover any encapsulated PCBs that would still have been on the ship in wiring, early layers of paint, etc. This paperwork is what was used to allow her export, even though the whole process likely violated environmental laws. Had EPA inspectors actually boarded the ship to inspect her as I begged them to do just before she was towed away to her destruction, I believe they would have seen plenty to be suspicious about. But they fell back on that flawed paperwork and let her go.

As explained earlier, I sent this EA paperwork for STORIS to a ship recycling expert who works as a manager at one of the yards in Brownsville. He specializes in dismantling ships, mind you, so he’s well up to speed on government regulations related to PCBs and disposal. He said that the testing done by the Coast Guard on STORIS (which was identical to ACUSHNET -- as both ships were done simultaneously – and MACKINAW a year earlier) was seriously flawed. It was obvious after reviewing the documentation that there was a clear and conscious effort to avoid testing any areas of the ship that would likely contain PCBs. For instance, not one location in STORIS’ electrical system had been sampled. In addition, while the paint was tested for lead content, no PCB testing was done on the paint. The testing is supposed to be random and thorough. If PCBs are found, they are to be remediated and another course of testing performed. That wasn’t done on STORIS. The PCB testing is only a couple pages long in the report and only sampled some three dozen or so locations, including rubber mats that were only a couple years old at the time of testing. Of course, there would be no PCBs there. Had a private ship recycling facility handled testing like that, they would have been fined into the ground by the EPA regulators who monitor shipbreaking here in the States. 

It’s expensive and comprehensive to test absolutely everything that may contain PCBs on older ships, so it is accepted within the U.S. shipbreaking industry that only way a ship of that vintage can be totally and truly PCB-free to regulatory levels would be to dismantle it and properly recycle all the materials to absolutely remove any possible PCB-impregnated materials.

BRAMBLE’s donation paperwork through the State of Michigan states that the ship is PCB-free. ACACIA’s paperwork transferring her to the museum in Manistee says, according to GSA, that she is free of PCBs. However, the agreement between the museum group and the Michigan Surplus Property Agency has a statement in it that the ship does contain PCBs and the museum accepts the ship acknowledging that but with no direction as to how that is to be addressed. The Navy handles its ships completely differently, following comprehensive waivers of the TSCA that set strict guidelines on how museum groups are to handle PCBs still on board the ships. More about this in a bit…

One of the big issues that we discovered with this travesty with STORIS is that GSA also does not release haz-mat information related to the ships it sells. GSA was sued in 2011 by a company that bought POSEIDON, a former NASA barge that contained some 250,000 gallons of haz-mat contaminated ballast water. NASA told GSA that the barge was dirty but GSA didn’t tell the buyer. The buyer only found out after the purchase when they were faced with disposing of the chemical-laced water. The federal court sided with the buyer and voided the sale. The same woman at GSA who sold that barge, Tonya Dillard, also sold ACUSHNET and STORIS at auction. And for this, she makes a hundred grand a year.

All of this raises some legitimate questions, particularly with the sparse paper trail leading back to the U.S. Coast Guard related to exactly how all of these ships were remediated of hazardous materials. Even MARAD paperwork related to STORIS that I got through FOIA questioned the validity of the CG’s position that STORIS was clean, let alone the other vessels. There were emails sent among MARAD administrators discussing the ship such as “Is it true that USCG has certified that this vessel is PCB free?” and “Interesting discussion among my staff about what appears to be a PCB-free vessel…”

Later in this Coast Guard release there will be some serious discussion among Coast Guard and EPA officials related to this process with STORIS and PCBs in particular.

P 6-7 – A sad document that outlines the process through which the U.S. Coast Guard excessed CGC STORIS after all the years of her dedicated service and the six years and $300,000 spent to hold the ship to become a museum. This fatal separation from the CG is over the signature of then-Commandant Robert Papp.

P 8 – A letter from the Coast Guard to the Alaska State Historic Preservation Office regarding the popular report associated with the Memorandum of Agreement between USCG and AK SHPO for Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. It was this MOA that acknowledged that STORIS could potentially suffer physical harm if decommissioned and cut off from federal support. So to allow the ship to be decommissioned, the AK SHPO through Section 106 allowed the ship to be retired if the CG thoroughly documented the ship through high-resolution b/w photography and drawings through the Historic American Engineering Record, to be accompanied by a written popular history report. This MOA is what Heather Bischoff and Tonya Dillard of GSA would use in spring 2013 to break off negotiations with the STORIS Working Group as we were trying to secure custody of the ship. GSA contended that the 6-1/2 year-old document fulfilled all the government’s obligations to preserve the ship and therefore they could discard her just like an old file cabinet. 

Incidentally, Alaska SHPO did have issues with the popular report discussed in this letter. When I submitted that written complaint to AK SHPO last year to compel the CG to move STORIS’ bell, builder’s plate and NW Passage plaque to curatorial storage in Maryland, I discovered from my correspondence with Shina DuVall of AK SHPO that the CG has not completed the revisions to the report. The Coast Guard claims it doesn’t have the funding to do so. So STORIS is slighted again. It will be 10 years in a couple months that she was decommissioned and she’s been gone for three years.

P 9-12 – Email discussion between USCG and MARAD about procedures and costs for STORIS’ storage and disposal. Also discussion about how to keep STORIS Museum informed of developments at that time.

P 13-22 – Correspondence between CG and GSA about STORIS’ auction and sale. This includes a copy of the ship’s auction prospectus. GSA claims the Sea Cadets affiliated with the Toledo partners in the STORIS Working Group were ineligible to claim the ship through the GSA donation program because the Sea Cadets can only obtain equipment from the Department of Defense. Somehow, STORIS was considered civilian equipment by GSA even though the State Department would officially class STORIS as a retired warship several weeks later while negotiating an export permit for her to be allowed to go to Mexico under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations.

P 23- 24 -- Explanation from CG to GSA about the necessity for the buyer to secure a COFR, or Certificate of Financial Responsibility. Through oil pollution regulations, ships over 300 gross tons must carry enough liability insurance to cover oil spill remediation. More discussion about the flexibility of terms for moving the ship because of time needed to reactivate her for movement under her own power. This movement flexibility will be critical later. Also of note is an inquiry from an unknown party asking about the reserve price. The inquiry came from someone who had bid on a NOAA research ship and was apparently curious about how the reserve pricing was established. That has been discussed in the GSA FOIA releases. The person making the inquiry is unknown, but I have my suspicions based on context. I’ll watch for other clues.

P 25-27 – Discussion between CG and GSA to adjust logistics and language of the auction to address personnel availability issues for ship inspection that conflict with what was posted in the auction.

P 28-29 – More discussion about the necessity for the COFR. There was an estimated 100 gallons of oil and hydraulic fluid on board the ship, some of which had leaked into the bilge. The correspondence between Jeff Beach and a CG inspector refers to a Coast Guard inspection report but the Coast Guard DID NOT provide a copy of the report to which this email correspondence refers. So right there that’s a deficiency in the CG response to me, to identify a record that exists related to STORIS but a copy of which they did not provide me.

P 30-31 – Discussion with Beach and unidentified correspondents looking to identify who purchased the ship. GSA refused to release the buyer’s information without a FOIA submission. It was through a FOIA and through contact initiated by the buyer to attempt to extort money from the STORIS Working Group to save the ship that we learned that the buyer was Mark Jurisich of U.S. Metals Recovery in San Diego. Jurisich was registered as a supposed used car dealer of dubious reputation and documentation in California, with his registration suspended for tax issues.

P 32- Statement provided by the CG in lieu of a builder’s certificate for the ship, since she was constructed for the CG as a unique cutter rather than as a commercial build.

P 33-34 – Correspondence with CG, GSA and the US State Department regarding STORIS’ designation as a retired warship and the necessity imposed on the buyer to negotiate an export permit through ITAR channels. I submitted a FOIA to State Department seeking the records from that agency, but I have had no response in many months. This will be stalled indefinitely as the State Department is currently embroiled in all of the FOIA lawsuits and legal firestorm surrounding former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s illegal email server and State’s efforts to cover up Clinton’s activities.

P 35 – Correspondence dated 25 Sept 2013 sent by Jeff Beach to Tonya Dillard of GSA reminding Dillard that STORIS needed to be removed from the Suisun Bay National Defense Reserve Fleet by 1 October 2013 or the CG would be on the hook for additional storage costs. This was typically done with an annual payment of ~$50,000. So for the six years STORIS was at the SBRF, the Coast Guard spent some $300,000 to keep the ship available for museum use. Then the GSA sold her at auction for $70,100 as this was in the government’s best interests, according to GSA officials. And people wonder why our country is so far in debt.

The ship was originally to have been removed within two weeks of the close of the auction in late June. However, it was learned that MARAD had other tasks scheduled for that time period in moving other, larger ships from the fleet, so STORIS could not have been moved until late August. The buyer continued to flaunt this, nevertheless, and it would get more serious from the CG’s perspective in the coming weeks until this critical point where Jeff Beach here requests that Dillard void the sale of the ship and return STORIS to the legal custody and ownership of the Coast Guard.

P 36-37 – Additional supporting correspondence sent 26 Sept 2013 by Jeff Beach to Tonya Dillard of GSA showing that Beach and MARAD officials had already discussed the situation with STORIS remaining in MARAD custody at the SBRF with impending storage costs about to be assessed to the Coast Guard for Jurisich’s failure to remove the ship after the auction.

P 38 – An email receipt showing Tonya Dillard had opened Beach’s email of 25 Sept.

P 39- 40 – Continued correspondence between Jeff Beach and GSA, drawing in Dr. Karen Warrior, the director of personal property for GSA. Warrior had responded to Jeff Beach’s 25 Sept email request to void the sale. GSA, through Karen Warrior, claimed that Jurisich had made reasonable attempts to move the ship but was hampered by circumstances beyond his control. She claimed that voiding the sale would open the government to liability and financial damage through breach of contract. What about Jurisich and his failure to comply with the sales contract’s requirements to remove the ship in a timely fashion?

Beach points out that issues with the State Department delaying the ship’s export did not prevent Jurisich from moving STORIS to a non-government facility within the SF Bay area.

“I can not agree with you that the buyer of the STORIS has made reasonable efforts to remove the vessel. Since before the reporting of the vessel to GSA its been stressed that 1 October was a critical date. The issue raised by the State Department should not enter into consideration. The vessel has been available for 30 days and delaying departure is a cost cutting move by the buyer. It should have been moved to a commercial berth within two weeks of being available…”

P 41- Another critical email exchange, dated 16 October, from Jeff Beach to Mark Brantley of GSA demanding that the sale of STORIS be voided and the ship returned to Coast Guard custody. 

As you know a purchaser's receipt was issued on 3 Duly following the public sale of USCGC STORIS. Removal date was listed as due by 07/12/13. MARAD who holds the vessel could not make the vessel available until 8/26/13. Your office granted an extension of removal until 10/15/13, more than 45 days after the ship was available for removal.

The buyer has yet to remove the vessel for reasons only to support his personal choice to move the vessel directly to a location. This needless delay has created additional expense for the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard again requests that the sale be terminated immediately and control of the ship returned to the U.S. Coast Guard…”

GSA refused. In any event, two days later on 18 October, we became aware through a distressing late evening text message from a contact in the SF Bay area that arrangements had been made to tow STORIS out of the country on 25 October bound for Ensenada, Mexico, and scrapping.

P 42-48 – Correspondence between Jeff Beach and MARAD to complete paperwork necessary to release STORIS from MARAD custody to the buyer so she could be removed from the SBRF.

P- 49 –  Correspondence between Jeff Beach and other CG officials related to an inquiry from Christopher Rollins, an inspector with EPA Region IX, about STORIS and her disposal path. Rollins had contacted CG on 28 October.

Once we had heard that STORIS was to be exported to Mexico, it was too late Friday to do anything about it. We had to wait until Monday, 21 October, until offices in California opened for business. I immediately left a message with the Environmental Protection Agency to inform them of the high likelihood that STORIS contained PCBs on board that should have made her export illegal. I received a phone call from Rollins, the inspector with EPA Region IX on Wednesday, 23 October. I explained all that I knew of STORIS likely contained PCBs on board due to her age and use. He indicated at that time that he had documentation that showed STORIS was free of regulated PCBs. This would later turn out to be the flawed report discussed at the opening of this post.

The issue with PCBs and the illegality of exporting ships contaminated with PCBs revolves around the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. The EPA has a whole Web site dedicated to this issue at https://www.epa.gov/pcbs/polychlorinated-biphenyls-pcbs-ships and a video on YouTube here, ironically narrated by Christopher Rollins: 

Once STORIS had been towed out of the SBRF, I became aware of additional concerns related to PCBs on board STORIS following an inquiry from Polly Parks, then an official with European Metals Recycling, a major ship recycling company with yards all over the world, including Brownsville, Texas. Ms. Parks, a well-versed authority on ship recycling and U.S. regulations, had read a newspaper story in Stars and Stripes about STORIS’ export to Mexico for scrapping. She sent correspondence to government agencies expressing concern and skepticism about the legality of the STORIS export and the ship’s status as free of regulated PCBs. Again, the government fell back on that flawed PCB sampling documentation. But there was concern raised to the point where EPA officials in Washington got involved and had to give a final go-ahead for STORIS to be allowed to leave US territorial waters.

Rollins had additional correspondence with Jeff Beach on 28 October, after we had been working the phones to legislators and news agencies to raise the alarm of STORIS’ illegal export with the PCB issue. Again, it was shady as hell to take STORIS out of the SBRF late on a Friday afternoon when the tow would have a two-day head start to get out of the country before anyone could try to intervene on Monday.

P 50-51 – Correspondence between CG and GSA with receipts and releases for the ship to be let go from MARAD custody at the SBRF. 

P 52-59 – Critical discussion related to PCB content on board STORIS as discussed in the opening to this post. As stated above, it is clear the Coast Guard had no idea how to deal with current regulations for PCBs on its ships and the paperwork language used in the Environmental Assessment was inadequate and likely illegal based on EPA review. However, with the correspondence back and forth, Coast Guard officials claimed the ship was free of regulated PCBs, both encapsulated and unencapsulated, despite the likelihood that, for example, STORIS’ original paints under years of subsequent layers still would have contained PCB fire retardants. The cabling that was still on board the ship, some of which was original to the ship’s 1942 construction, was also oozing a black liquid in the months leading up to her decommissioning. Those cables, while not known to be type with the liquid coolant containing PCBs, were still degrading and breaking down. Surely, that was also a cause for concern with potential PCB components from the 1941-era insulation released by the breakdown of the coverings. 

Again, these pages show the CG did not understand current regulations for ship disposal related to PCBs. EPA officials questioned the language in the documentation and the procedures followed for the documentation and disposal of the ship. The language in the EA PCB reports were questioned by EPA. The CG response: 

“Historically, the Coast Guard has not routinely sold ships for foreign scrapping, and the boilerplate language was not drafted with foreign scrapping in mind. In the past. Coast Guard vessels have typically been excessed for continued use, either through Foreign Military Sales, for use by another Federal agency, or under the authority of special legislation, for a purpose addressed in the legislation. In the case of the Storis, the Coast Guard originally anticipated special legislation to effect transfer of the vessel to a private group for use as a museum. Years after decommissioning, it became clear that the special legislation would not be passed and Coast Guard excessed the vessel for transfer by GSA. The boilerplate language predates the decision to transfer the vessel to GSA by several years…”

And from William Noggle, PCB official from EPA in Washington.

“Thanks for the response. The boilerplate language is not correct if these vessels are to be sold for foreign scrapping. Any PCBs over 50 ppm, including totally enclosed, are in violation of TSCA if exported for disposal. 

Is the document true? Were liquid-filled electrical cables on board the vessel when it was auctioned by GSA?...”

As discussed earlier, it should have gone beyond just any liquid-filled cables. It is my understanding from correspondence with ship recycling experts that any PCB-containing materials from fire-retardant paints to electrical ballasts for fluorescent light fixtures to even grease all need to be considered for PCB content. The domestic yards are held to these standards by the government, but the government doesn’t consider its own strict guidelines when dealing with its own ships. At least the Coast Guard, anyway, as the U.S. Navy has strict procedures in place when transferring former Navy vessels out for use as museum ships. This has been discussed in other posts, with examples of the detailed agreements that are put in place between the EPA, Navy and the ship recipients as waivers of the TSCA regulations for PCBs.

This process with STORIS – and likely other cutters sold to the public or released for museum use – was followed incorrectly and there should have been serious penalties for the parties involved. The CG made huge mistakes in this situation. We know from other FOIA releases that MARAD officials also questioned what was going on with STORIS and her PCB-free status but they did nothing about it either, despite being the federally designated agency for ship recycling. EPA didn’t act to intervene with the ship’s export when she was still en route and later, when she was in the yard in Mexico. She should have been repatriated to the U.S.  No, historically the Coast Guard doesn't sell ships for foreign scrapping. Allowing STORIS out of the country to be demolished, especially with PCBs on board, violated at least two federal laws, the PCB export ban of the TSCA and §3502 of the Duncan Hunter NDAA of 2009.

But the government doesn’t make mistakes. They just break more rules and compound the situation to cover up their earlier egregious violations.

P 60-64 – Correspondence between Jeff Beach and MARAD regarding departure documentation for the ship, including photographs. Much of this is posted elsewhere on this Facebook page through the MARAD FOIA information.

P 65- 66 – Correspondence between Beach and Mark Jurisich regarding haz-mat correspondence provided to Mexican authorities related to STORIS. The Mexican government had received reports that STORIS was contaminated with radioactivity and they placed the ship under arrest. I have heard of a couple people who claimed responsibility for those reports. Other correspondence received through FOIA showed that EPA officials and Jurisich attributed those reports to me. I was pursuing the correct and legitimate angle of the PCBs, which the Mexicans supposedly did claim they were going to follow, but apparently did nothing. The ship was subsequently cut up, though a reporter from the AP told me she spoke with authorities who claimed they tested the ship for PCBs and found nothing, everything was great and the electrical system was being sent back to the US for recycling. At the time, I pointed out that the copper in the electrical system was probably among the most valuable materials on the ship, so why was it being returned to the States if there wasn’t a problem with it? It bears noting again that Mexico has no facilities to process and dispose of PCBs…

P 67- 68- Final correspondence between Joe Pecoraro of MARAD and Jeff Beach about departure photos.

So that’s it. Another FOIA release and another disappointing look into how bureaucrats and officials within our government worked together to destroy the nationally significant CGC STORIS. 

I’m not done yet. There are still appeals to pursue and other questions to ask. I think new FOIA requests will be needed to seek other documentation that’s missing, so we will see where that goes.

This is tedious reading and hard on the eyes, brain and heart, but we deserve answers. STORIS deserves answers. Moreover, there needs to be some accountability, even if it’s just permanent shame attached to those responsible.

Three year anniversary of STORIS tow to Mexico remembered

25 October 2013

There are no words...

STORIS, you are not forgotten.

Historic CGC TAMAROA of "Perfect Storm" fame to be reefed

The former CGC TAMAROA (WMEC-166) from the "Perfect Storm" of 1991 is to be reefed after an unsuccessful attempt to preserve her as her former identity of USS ZUNI.


CG FOIA arrives...finally 17 October 16

The Coast Guard FOIA response I referred to the other day arrived in today's mail. There are 68 pages of documentation and correspondence streams. Some of the pages deal with information we already knew about. There are some new documents, however, including discussion about the sale, her status as "PCB-free" and issues with the buyer. This includes two efforts by the Coast Guard to regain custody of the ship when the buyer continued to ignore the deadlines for removing her from storage at Suisun Bay. GSA instead took the buyer's side and rebuffed the Coast Guard. 

I'll need a couple of days to go through this and compile notes and an outline to share. I've also sent it to others for their review and analysis. Sigh.

It will be three years tomorrow that I got a distraught text that she was going out for scrap the following Friday.

STORIS' historic trip to Petropavlovsk remembered

Following the liberalization of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev, the USSR dissolved in 1991, leading to the end of much of the Cold War hostility that had prevailed between the United States and Soviets since the end of World War II. In a show of thawing tensions and growing cooperative friendship between the U.S. and Russia, STORIS made an official visit to the Russian port of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky on 17 October 1992. The Russian cutter PSKR VOLGA had earlier visited San Francisco to take part in the U.S. Coast Guard’s two-hundredth anniversary in May 1990. VOLGA, part of the Russian Maritime Border Guard, an organization similar to the U.S. Coast Guard, was a patrol vessel in the former Soviet territories of the Bering Sea. While in Petropavlovsk, VOLGA moored beside STORIS and entertained the American crew with an elaborate ceremony. The crews exchanged gifts and established friendships. The two cutters also participated in a joint exercise during the visit. Officials in both countries declared that the visit helped to forge a greater bond between both nations and the ships and crews that patrol the Maritime Boundary Line in the Bering Sea.

The attached photo was graciously offered for publication as part of the National Register nomination for STORIS. It was taken 17 October 1992 by Dmitry Lomivorotov - дмитрий ломиворотов​, of Omsk, Russia, Radio Operator, PKSR VOLGA.

National Security interests should mean US ships dismantled domestically

This doesn’t include STORIS directly, but it’s a reflection of the current mindset of our Federal Government and U.S.-flagged shipping companies related to obsolete American ships. 

Prior to STORIS being exported out of the country on 25 OCT 2013 (yes, it’s going to be three years already), the Coast Guard and GSA were pushing the narrative that the ship was a privately owned vessel that the owner was free to do with what he pleased. The State Department, however, had already been involved with the ship by declaring her a retired U.S. warship, subject to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). Her export to Mexico required application for an export permit through the State Department.

This process through the State Department was referred to in some of the correspondence exchanges I received from other U.S. Federal Agencies. I filed a Freedom of Information Act request specifically with the State Department for the internal communications and documentation related to the STORIS export. Other than a denial for expedited response and a “we’ll check into it and get back to you,” response to my request several months later for an update, we have absolutely nothing from State. With all of the extremely shady actions of the State Department surrounding the definitely careless and likely illegal activities of former Secretary of State and current Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton and her cabal at State, it’s highly unlikely we are going to see anything related to the STORIS request any time soon. The FOIA personnel at State are busy fulfilling the legal demands of various court-ordered FOIA releases related to Clinton’s activities while other officials at State are likely doing their best to hide information and stall wherever possible. This is another chapter of corruption within our government at the highest levels.

I will likely have to refile and push through the Office of Government Information Systems or other means to try to get a response on that angle of this sad mess involving STO. (I’ve spoken to several retired military Veterans from Coast Guard and other service and all have said the same thing: if they had done but a fraction of what Clinton is known to have done, they would have been stripped of their security clearance and imprisoned at Fort Leavenworth. Sadly, if Clinton can escape penalty for the egregious violations for which she and her aides, cohorts, accomplices, etc. are accused, those directly responsible for STORIS’ destruction are likely off scot-free.)  

While it’s not likely that Mexico was able to glean much in the way of military secrets from a retired 71-year-old ice patrol cutter, the idea that our U.S.-flagged ships are still being sent overseas for breaking seems counter to common sense from a national security standpoint, let alone a position for American jobs and commerce. A lot of good steel and jobs are heading out of the country when U.S.-flagged ships are taken out of the country. Money is the bottom line. And there again, how any money was gained from scrapping STORIS still remains to be explained. It's always money, though.

We know that STORIS contained encapsulated PCBs, which should have made her export illegal under the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. We also know that Section 3502 of the Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act of 2009 made her export as a former U.S. Government vessel illegal. The U.S. Federal Government, through the actions of officials with the General Services Administration, U.S. Coast Guard, Maritime Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, facilitated and fast-tracked STORIS’ export to Mexico. 

STORIS was no derelict. She was in beautiful shape, needing only a coat of fresh paint and some minor maintenance to return to operational status. The MARAD condition reports released to us through FOIA back that up, showing her material condition to be the best of all the ships laid up there in the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet. Even Joe Pecoraro, manager of the SBRF, said she was a great candidate for a museum ship. It’s all in the FOIA documents. The Coast Guard spent over $300,000 to keep her in museum hold status from summer 2007 until 2013, when GSA bureaucrats Heather Bischoff and Tonya Dillard sold her for $70,100 to a shady used-car dealer from Southern California. “It was determined that it is in the best interest of the government to accept the high bid.” Bischoff said in FOIA’d emails.  

Our money wasted, our history destroyed, our STORIS. Gone at the whim of a bureaucrat. 

STORIS is not the only ship with ties to military honor and service that was broken up outside of the U.S. I’ve recently learned of several U.S.-flagged vessels named after Medal of Honor recipients that have been taken out of the country to be scrapped in substandard yards. Once again, a slap in the face to American Valor.

This is an op-ed piece shared with me that was published last week on TradeWinds.com, a subscription-based publication for the TradeWinds shipowners forum.

The link is here: http://www.tradewindsnews.com/weekly/1003890/national-security-interests-require-us-flag-ships-be-dismantled-at-home

There is a free trial option on the site, but I was able to get a copy through other means.

National security interests require US-flag ships be dismantled at home

If we are serious about protecting the oceans, we cannot keep breaking up US-flag vessels on Indian beaches, says MarAd former chief counsel K Denise Rucker Krepp, now a lobbyist for recycler EMR USA

October 6th, 2016 17:00 GMT  
Published in WEEKLY

At the TradeWinds Shipowners Forum USA in New York last month, Maritime Administration (MarAd) administrator Paul Jaenichen urged attendees to support the US flag fleet. It’s in our national security interest, he argued, to ensure that the country has a fleet built by American workers and crewed by US mariners. 

Agreed. But it is also in our national security interest to mandate that these vessels be dismantled in the US at the end of their lives.

Last month, the US Department of State hosted an international conference entitled “Our Ocean, One Future”. Secretary of state John Kerry said the ocean was under tremendous pressure from human activity, including marine pollution, and he implored delegates to work together to protect it. “This is life and death. This is national security. This is international security,” he said.

This eloquent argument for greater care stands in stark contrast to support by the Department of Transportation and MarAd for the brutal destruction of obsolete US-flag vessels on Indian beaches, which are littered with metal debris and toxins. The tides sweep these hazards into the ocean — the same ocean that Kerry is trying to protect. 

So how do US-flag vessels end up on beaches thousands of miles away? 

Most arrive after being reflagged into another country’s fleet. US owners submit documents to MarAd requesting government approval for the transfer. MarAd contacts the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asking if there are any national security concerns associated with the request. Routinely, they say “no” and MarAd then approves the transfer.

But as Kerry claims that stopping marine pollution is a national security interest, why do US agencies support the beaching of US vessels at questionable facilities? After all, the EPA’s mission is to ensure that the US “plays a leadership role in working with other nations to protect the global environment”. Is the US government practising leadership in allowing its vessels to destroy Indian beaches?

While you ponder that one, please consider that many former US-flagged vessels taken apart on Indian beaches were at one time financed, subsidised or chartered by the US government under various subsidy programmes. 

One of these is the Maritime Security Program (MSP). Participants receive $3.1m of taxpayer dollars per vessel per year for participating in this programme. Why? To guarantee that the DOD has commercial resources available to support national security. Yet there is no requirement that MSP-subsidised vessels be recycled in US facilities. 

Similarly, there is no requirement that vessels chartered by the DOD to transport ammunition be recycled in the US. That’s right: vessels that once transported US munitions are being taken apart in foreign facilities. Anyone see a national security risk with that idea? 

But that’s not all. MarAd has a ship financing programme known as Title XI. The purpose is to finance or refinance US-flag vessels built, reconstructed or reconditioned in American shipyards. And as with the other programmes, there is no requirement that Title XI vessels be dismantled in the US. 

The government shirks its leadership responsibilities when it allows US-flag vessels to be destroyed on Indian beaches. It becomes the emperor with no clothes when it lets vessels that it has financed, subsidised or chartered harm foreign waters. Protecting the ocean is in our national security interest, and it’s time to change our policies — time to mandate that all US vessels be recycled at home in conditions that are safe for workers and safe for the environment.

8 October CG FOIA Update

I received an email yesterday from CG Civilian employee John Melchers, Chief of the Personal Property Accountability Division of the Office of Financial Policy, Reporting, and Property. This relates to the Coast Guard FOIA I submitted on Nov. 4, 2013, almost THREE FULL YEARS ago. The Coast Guard has finally completed another review of records requested for the handling of STORIS. They were reportedly put into the postal mail yesterday and are en route.

Now what will be in there and how many pages will there be? 

As you may recall, the Coast Guard sent information to me and called their effort complete. However, I pointed out in an appeal that I had documents in my possession that involved STORIS and the Coast Guard, documents that I had received from other government agencies and individuals. These records were not included in the materials released by the Coast Guard, so it was clear that the CG had withheld or otherwise overlooked records related to the ship. There was also the serious matter of claiming to have looked for records related to the ship in a location that we knew as a matter of procedure would have been purged of those records. This appeal process has gone on for about a year, with the CG making the release on 1 September 2015 and my response 13 November.

Once the materials arrive, I will review them as quickly as possible. Since they are being sent in hard copy, I will have to scan them, which will take time depending on how much material is sent. Past experience has demonstrated that the government agencies involved are not generous in sharing materials that reveal their complicity in this sordid affair.

As a related aside, EPA still owes us a response to my FOIA Appeal   filed 14 May 2014, almost a year and a half ago. I filed a FOIA request with the State Department on 15 January 2015 and only heard that my request for an expedited response was denied. An inquiry in February of 2016 indicated that State would be looking into it. Nothing since. State has been busy with other higher-profile FOIA and record-keeping issues these past few months...

1 October marks 25 years for STORIS becoming QOTF

A photo taken in 2005 clearly shows STORIS gold "38" and the Galloping Ghost in fresh paint. What a beautiful ship...and what a loss.

CGC FIR with her gold hull numbers prior to her decommissioning. Taken sometime between 1987 and 1991.

ACUSHNET on her decommissioning day.

SMILAX at her Gold Number ceremony.

Twenty-five years ago last Saturday, in a ceremony in Seattle on 1 October 1991, the Coast Guard decommissioned the lighthouse tender FIR (WLM-212). At the time, FIR had been operating as a coastal buoy tender and had been in service for the U.S. Coast Guard for exactly fifty-one years. She was the oldest commissioned cutter in the fleet. With FIR’s retirement, STORIS became the oldest commissioned cutter in the Coast Guard, earning her the title “Queen of the Fleet.” There at the ceremony to remove the covering to reveal the gold “38” were USCG RADM Richard D. “Dick” Schmidtman and his wife, Mildred (also known as Julie). RADM Schmidtman was a LCDR and CDR who worked as Resident Chief Inspector at the Toledo Shipbuilding Company from April of 1941 to June of 1944. While at Toledo, he supervised the construction of STORIS while Mrs. Schmidtman had christened STORIS on her launch day, 4 April 1942.

Upon STORIS' decommissioning, the CGC ACUSHNET (WMEC-167) took over the mantle as QOTF, a role she fulfilled until she, too, was retired on 11 March 2011. CGC SMILAX (WLIC-315) is the current Queen, following the ACU.

Screen cap is from the video of the ceremony that used to be posted on the CG D13 PA site. It is my understanding that it is apparently “lost.” I downloaded a copy around the time the National Register nomination was being prepared but it is terribly distorted from duplication and compression artifacts. Undoubtedly, there are other copies out there -- I know of a FIR decommissioning plankowner who has one -- but it’s apparently not a concern for the Coast Guard administration to have something like that available.

YouTube video features STORIS Greenland Patrol accomplishment

A share from D David Haven with YouTube link for a CG WWII documentary that talks of STORIS' efforts to thwart the Nazis from establishing weather stations on Greenland. Thanks!

I came across this vid mentioning the Storis going all Rambo in WW2. (Start about 7:45)

ex-CGC BRAMBLE gets underway in September with STORIS Vets on board


The ex-USCGC BRAMBLE  got underway the weekend of 16-18 September to head down the St. Clair River from her moorings in Port Huron, MI, to moor in the small city of Algonac. The ship arrived on Friday afternoon and was open for tours Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. She headed back to Port Huron on Sunday by heading down the South Channel and then returning upriver to Port Huron.


The original plan was to head down to Toledo for the fall excursion but the water depths in the Maumee River near the National Museum of the Great Lakes were a cause for concern with her draft.

The owners, Robert and Sara Klingler of Marine City, invited US Coast Guard veterans who served on BRAMBLE and her sister 180-foot buoy tenders. Three of the men who also joined the trip were DC Master Chief James Hiller of Michigan, Chuck Schmitzer of Pennsylvania and Dick Juge of Louisiana. These three men are STORIS Veterans from when she served as flagship of the historic summer 1957 transit of the Northwest Passage through the Canadian Arctic. BRAMBLE and her sister SPAR accompanied STORIS. 

BRAMBLE is the most historic of the 39 180s that were built, this because of the NW Passage transit and her participation at Operation Crossroads at Bikini Atoll in 1946. She is listed as nationally significant on the National Register of Historic Places. Just after I nominated BRAMBLE for listing, we started on STORIS' National Register nomination, so both of these great ships were nominated and recognized in 2012. Sadly, STORIS is gone now. Thanks to the U.S. Government for that travesty...

We went and visited BRAMBLE Friday night and Saturday morning. We went back Sunday morning to see them off. It was a privilege, honor and pleasure to meet Master Chief Hiller, Chuck and Marty Schmitzer and Dick and Nancy Juge. 

Photos: STORIS and BRAMBLE follow CGC SPAR during the transit of the Northwest Passage in 1957. 

BRAMBLE docked in Algonac on Friday afternoon.

Chuck Schmitzer, Dick Juge, Nancy Juge and Marty Schmitzer at BRAMBLE's rail just before departure Sunday morning. Master Chief Jim Hiller was up on the forecastle handing lines.

STORIS' construction in Toledo remembered

Above: STORIS on her launch day at Toledo Shipbuilding Co. Left, RADM Richard Schmidtman, the Coast Guard officer who supervised the building of STORIS in Toledo.

She was the Galloping Ghost of the Alaskan Coast, Bulldog of the Bering, the STO-pig or The Mighty STO.

The men chiefly responsible for building STORIS called her “Patches.”

I was poking around the Web doing some follow-up research and ran across an oral history interview conducted with USCG RADM Richard D. “Dick” Schmidtman on April 21, 1988. RADM Schmidtman was a LCDR and CDR who worked as Resident Chief Inspector at the Toledo Shipbuilding Company from April of 1941 to June of 1944. While at Toledo, he supervised the conversions of ALMOND, ARROWWOOD and CHAPARRAL from commercial ferries to CG tenders. He also supervised the new builds of MACKINAW and of course, STORIS. His wife, Mildred (also known as Julie), sponsored STORIS at her launch. 

In other assignments, RADM Schmidtman served in various administrative positions with several afloat tours, including command of the CGC EASTWIND. He was District Commander of D13 when he retired in 1967. In October 1991, when STORIS took over the title of Queen of the Fleet, RADM and Mrs. Schmidtman were at the ceremony to remove the covering to reveal STORIS' new gold hull number "38." He passed away in 1995.

The oral history provides a fascinating look into the construction of STORIS. RADM Schmidtman refers several times to Harold Wood, who also was supervising the construction of the ship for the Coast Guard and was also likely a LCDR at that time. Wood would serve as EO on STORIS during the Greenland Patrols and as her CO during her historic Summer 1957 transit of the Northwest Passage. There is a separate oral history for CAPT Wood, as well, that is an excellent read, talking about the Greenland Patrol and, naturally, the Northwest Passage trip. That will be another post. 

The relevant references to STORIS from RADM Schmidtman run from pages 20 to 24, after the RADM explains how he joined the Coast Guard and got involved with ship construction. The interviewer is noted as “Sam.” (SG in CAPT Wood’s interview…”

RADM Schmidtman’s biography from the USCG: https://www.uscg.mil/history/people/Flags/SchmidtmanRBio.pdf

And the oral history in full: http://fcgh.org/wp-content/orals/Dick_Schmidtman.pdf 

RADM Schmidtman, noted as “Dick” throughout

… So I went to headquarters and then they sent me out to the Toledo Ship Building Company to start building the Storis. And I didn't know until the middle of 1941 whether I was going to get a master's degree or what they were going to do, but I did. They sent me a master's degree. And I don't know how many times this happened in the past, but I got a master's degree with no bachelor's degree. Later on, the academy gave all the graduates, including the three-year types a bachelor of science degree in engineering. 

[Sam] And that B.S. is probably appropriate.

[Dick] Yeah probably. Well chosen. Well, my experience at the Toledo Ship Building Company was not only educational, but very pleasant. A nice bunch of people at the Toledo Ship. The head man on the scene was an Englishman by the name of Joel Rollinson, who had come over to Canada from England for Lloyds of London. And then they moved down into the states and got this job at Toledo Ship. He was the junior superintendent. We got along famously. We liked each other and we liked each other's families and although we had a lot of battles, we settled them peacefully and amicably and we got along fine. However, the Storis was designed to be an all-welded ship. Toledo Ship was not really qualified to build an all-welded ship. They didn't have enough welders for one thing. The only welding that they did was to patch up riveted ships which came in off the lakes. And as he said in the days when it was a shipbuilding company, which they didn't do anymore at this time - this was 1941. He says "they used to build them by the mile and cut them off every 600 feet and put a bow and a stern on them" and they were all riveted, of course. Well, that meant that they had a large crew of riveting people. All of the trades, the heaters, the riveters, the holder uppers. 

[Sam] And the buckers.

[Dick]  The buckers right. And they were only willing to take the contract for the Storis if the Coast Guard would allow them to put rivets in that ship. So the Coast Guard made, what to my professional opinion was, a mistake. They told them they would do it. They would let them rivet and then they would let them weld. Well, according to what I had learned at MIT, that is the wrong to do. If you rivet first then you weld, at least that is the way it was done, and the process of welding with the heating and cooling will loosen rivets. Now you have got a hole through the ship with a loose rivet in it. You've got a leak. It is not the thing to do. You either go one way or the other., but that is the way they went. That was the first step. In the second place, they didn't know how to build a welded ship. By which I mean, when you build a welded ship, you get plates out of the structural shop, the ship fitter shop and you take them down to the building berth and you have to put them up against the frame of the ship and hold them in place until you get it welded. Well there are systems that have been devised using clips and wedges so that without drilling any holes in the plate, you can hold it in place until the welding has been completed. Well, Toledo Ship didn't know anything about that. They are ship fitters. They are experienced, professional artisans - just didn't know how to do that. So, it became my job to teach these people. Now, I was fresh out of school. I was a lieutenant a two-striper and much younger than all of these people, but it was a gratifying job and I enjoyed doing it. And Harold Wood was my number one man, he was the prospective engineer officer for the Storis and he hadn't been to MIT, but he knew about welded ships. So the two of us took on this job and we had a heck of a time and we made a lot of mistakes and maybe let a lot of things go that we shouldn't have. At one point, we were calling the ship Patches because they were forever drilling holes where they shouldn't and we were making them cut these things out and put a patch on it in its place. A case in point was the main sea chest doubler. Now this, of course, is a plate that is quilted on over the regular shell plate the hull plating of the ship and the regular shell had been in place for some time. Now, they were going to get out the sea chest doubler that had to have an opening cut in it for the sea chest, of course. And then be placed up against the ship and held there until the welders had welded it in place. Well, this was still the summer of 1941, the war hadn't started. So they were still on one shift a day. And it was my practice to walk through the yard down the building berth and look at what they had done for the day before I went home. The yard was closed down and everybody had gone. So there I was walking down looking down under the ship and I saw these spikes sticking down. Horns coming down out of the bottom of the ship. So I went up underneath the ship and damned if they hadn't drilled holes in that sea chest doubler and bolted it in place. So I was fit to be tied. The next morning I was in Joel Rollinson's office bright and early and I said "damn it Joel, they have done it again." And he said "what have they done?" and I told him and he sent for the quarterman ship fitter, old Tom Naylor and he came in and we told him. And he looked at me with complete honesty and he said "how were we going to hold it up there while we weld, are you going to put somebody in it to stand under it?" I said "of course not, you use clips and wedges. You remember, you heard that before, clips and wedges. And you weld the clip to the shell plate and the clip comes across the new plate and you drive a wedge in it to hold it in place. And that is what you do until you get it welded." He said "oh well." So I said "okay Joel, throw it out, get a new one." And I said "I'm going to give you a break, I'm going to let you plug wall the holes you put in the shell. I ought to make you take the shell plates off too, but I'm not." So, "okay" he said. So Harold Wood and I used to say "this poor ship, god knows how long she's going to last, but it won't be very long." And here it is 1988 and the Storis is still in full commission and going like gangbusters. 

[Sam] 50 years.

[Dick] Oh yes. Woody ought to be telling. You have had Woody on one of these, haven't you?

[Sam]  Yes.

[Dick]  Did he tell you about the fuel tanks in the Storis! 

[Sam]   No. 

[Dick]   Well, the specifications called for the interior plating, the interior side of the plating in where the fuel tanks are to be treated not painted, but treated with linseed oil. A linseed oil treatment which would then dissolve in the diesel fuel and go out with the diesel, but would protect the plate from rusting, corroding. Well the yard had another idea. They had some kind of patented paint that they wanted to use which would do the same thing, but better and cost less. And, of course, this was at this point, a fixed-price contract. This is before the cost-plus days after the war started, you had a lot of cost plus. In fact the Mackinaw was cost plus, the next ship that followed it. But, some knuckle head in naval engineering headquarters went along with the idea and nobody beat it down so they were allowed to put this, I can't remember the name, it was something like musterol [phonetic]. You know the stuff you rub on you. It had a name something like that - musterol. It wasn't Rustoleum. Anyway, they painted this junk on the plates that were going into the fuel tank and poor old Woody had to live with it after he left with the ship. When they left in October of 1942 for Boston and had to go out through the St. Lawrence River. Fortunately, their fuel filters were duplex. They had duplex filters, but he said they actually had to have a man standing constantly over these filters because this musterol was washing off and remaining in suspension. See it didn't dissolve like the linseed oil would have, it remained in suspension and when it hit the filters, of course, it clogged the filters. And when that happened, they had to switch over to the other side and pull the filter and clean it, put it back in. I think they wound up putting cotton or bunting or something around which they could just strip off and throw away. But they were doing that constantly all the way around to Boston because of these jokers. Well they were good people. I liked them, they were all good people. Anyway, poor old Woody lived to regret that one.

[Sam]  They had probably developed that for use in a steam job for bunker oil rather than for diesel oil.

[Dick]  I really don't know. I don't know why it shouldn't have done the same thing with bunker oil because it was thick enough so it may not have even washed it off in the first place. 

[Sam]  Yeah and you don't have to filter that.

[Dick]  But diesel oil is very penetrating. It is like Liquid Wrench practically and it caused a lot of trouble.

[Sam]   I had similar problems in my boat.

[Dick]  An interesting thing happened in connection with the Mackinaw which was the next job the Coast Guard gave Toledo Ship and that was at the launching. Of course, both the Storis and the Mackinaw and common with most ships in the Great Lakes, it was launched side ways and they were dry docked. However, in the case of the Storis, she was a small enough ship so that there was plenty of room in the dry dock. In the case of the Mackinaw, the Mackinaw's beam was 75 feet and the dry dock was something like 80-feet wide. There was very little room to spare… 

The rest of the interview continues with the launch of MACKINAW and then-CDR Schmidtman’s career progression in research and afloat tours, such as CO of CGC COOS BAY and EASTWIND. It is an interesting read but the section on STORIS and her construction is fabulous insight, especially since it is almost certain that everyone who was involved with the construction is now gone. My good friend LCDR Brent Michaels served on MACKINAW for something like 12+ years and explained that when he was on Big MACK, they had attempted to have a reunion for shipyard workers who built her and there were hardly any left at that time. Brent came off MACKINAW 21 years ago already. He’s gone now and STORIS, too. Heavy heart…

They called her “Patches,” and questioned whether she would hold together. Yet STORIS served over 64 years in some of the harshest, most violent seas on Earth. She retired in beautiful condition after serving her country with Honor, Respect and Devotion to Duty, only to be betrayed by the very government she served. 

Photo of RADM Schmidtman from an EASTWIND memory collection on Jack’s Joint Coast Guard page:  www.jacksjoint.com/The%20Mighty%20E.pdf