Without a doubt, the October 1 christening ceremony held at Enterprise Marine Services’ Channelview, Texas, fleeting facility was a celebration of the three new vessels joining the company’s growing fleet of towboats.
Steiner Shipyard in Bayou La Batre, Ala., built the mvs. Ralph C and Ed S, identical vessels that measure 100 feet by 34 feet, with an 11-foot draft and 3,000 hp. Plaquemine, La.-based Verret Shipyard built the Lee W, a powerful 4,200 hp., ABS load line-classed towboat with a retractable wheelhouse.
But more than just celebrating the new vessels moored at Enterprise’s Channelview facility, the christening ceremony also paid tribute to a group of old friends whose camaraderie helped define their lives and the company they each eventually worked for.
The Ralph C is named for Ralph S. Cunningham; the Lee W honors Lee W. Marshall; and the mv. Ed S is named for Edwin S. Smith. Cunningham, Marshall and Smith, along with Larry Casey (who also has an Enterprise vessel named for him) and Enterprise founder Dan Duncan were a tight knit group of friends known as the “Post Oak Grill Gang.” The group of friends drew their name from the Houston area restaurant where they would meet for lunch on the last Tuesday of every month.
Over the years, the friends also traveled together, often enjoying hunting and fishing both at home and abroad. Marshall died March 3, 2006, while Duncan died March 28, 2010.
And while the group of friends all wound up together at Enterprise, they each took different paths to get there.
Cunningham began his career in the energy industry with Humble Oil & Refining, now known as ExxonMobil. He went on to hold executive positions at Tenneco, Texaco, Huntsman Corporation, Clark Oil & Refining and Citgo. He joined Enterprise Products Company as an outside director in 1987. then joined the company full time in 1997. Today, he serves as advisory director of Enterprise Products Partners L.P.
Marshall was a lieutenant in the Navy during the Korean War. After the war, he went on to serve in senior and executive roles with Phillips Petroleum, Tenneco and Union Pacific Resources. Marshall retired in 1993 and formed his own oil and gas production company. In 1998, he became one of the first directors of the general partner of Enterprise Products Partners L.P. In March of 2005, Marshall became a director—and subsequently board chairman and acting CEO—of TEPPCO Partners L.P.
Smith and Duncan met in 1973 while dove hunting in Mexico, and the pair would go on to share many hunting excursions over the years. Smith and Duncan went on two African safaris together, hunted pheasants in Argentina, pursued black and brown bears in Alaska, and hunted polar bears in Canada’s Northwest Territory. Smith spent a total of 31 years with Allied Bank of Texas, where he retired as executive vice president in 1989. He joined Enterprise Products Company as a director from 1987 to 1997. He also served as a director of the general partner of Enterprise GP Holdings L.P. from August 2005 to November 2010 and as director of the general partner of Enterprise Products Partners L.P. from November 2010 to April 2014. Since then, he has served as advisory director of general partner of Enterprise Products Partners L.P.
Through all of life’s bends and eddies, Cunningham, Marshall, Smith, Casey and Duncan’s relationship went far beyond that of friends or business colleagues. In a word, they were family.
“I feel surrounded by family,” said Lee Marshall Jr., Marshall’s son, speaking at the christening ceremony. “This has been family for my dad, mom and our family.”
Marshall Jr. went on to imagine what it would be like if the group of friends, including Duncan and his father who has already passed away, could meet for lunch one last time.
“If that gathering could be reconstituted just once more, say a week hence from today, I would have to believe the topic of conversation would flow in short order to the subject of the christenings of these beautiful craft.”
Maybe the friends would boast about whose namesake was biggest or best, Marshall Jr. said, but in truth, the greater attention would be on the group.
“Dad’s mindset, as is the case here today, would’ve been all about honoring his friends,” Marshall Jr. said.
Marshall Jr. spoke fondly of his father’s love for vessels of all kinds, from the aircraft carriers of his Navy days to his Lightning sailboat. All in all, Marshall Jr. said he knew what his dad would do if given the chance to board the mv. Lee W.
“There’s absolutely no question that my dad would’ve jumped at the chance to take the helm of the Lee W, navigate her to open water, let the diesels rip and try like hell not to hit anything,” Marshall Jr. said. “Once safely back in port, he would tell anyone within earshot that was the most exciting thing he’d ever done in his life.”
Marshall Jr. closed by offering his sincere thanks to the entire Enterprise family for honoring his father with the mv. Lee W.
“The Marshall family stands humbled, we are deeply blessed, and we thank you for honoring the patriarch of our family in this most apropos fashion,” he said. “I know this: On this day, no one would be more humbled or grateful than my father. Thank you.”
In like manner, Cunningham and Smith shared fond memories of their friendship and expressed humble thanks for the honor of the Enterprise towboats that bear their names.
Eric Ricker, director of marine operations for Enterprise Marine Services LLC, followed by recognizing Ted Verret of Verret Shipyard and Russell “Bubba” Steiner Jr. of Steiner Shipyard. Ricker also introduced the crowd to the crews of the Ralph C, Lee W and Ed S.
“Mr. Cunningham, family of Mr. Marshall, Mr. Smith, I can assure you today that you have the finest mariners operating and managing your namesake vessels,” Ricker said.
Thomas Rhoades, chaplain with Seaman’s Church Institute, presented each vessel’s captain with a Bible and U.S. Merchant Marine flag and said a prayer of blessing over each crew.
Also addressing the crowd were Jim Teague, CEO for the general partner of Enterprise Products Partners L.P., and Tim Moss, president of Enterprise Marine Services LLC.
Outside aboard the vessels, namesakes and family members gathered on deck to break bottles of champagne to ceremonially christening the vessels into the Enterprise fleet. Cunningham and his wife, Deb, christened the Ralph C. Scott Bohrer and Lamyaa Bohrer joined Marshall Jr. aboard the Lee W to christen that vessel. Finally, Smith, along with his son, Robert, gathered aboard the Ed S to christen that vessel.
Mvs. Ralph C, Lee W and Ed S
The Ed S and Ralph C, both built by Steiner Construction Company, came online November 15, 2018, and January 31, respectively. Those vessels measure 100 feet by 34 feet, with a depth of 11 feet 9 inches. The vessels have tankage for 38,000 gallons of fuel, 4,000 gallons of potable water, 800 gallons of lube oil and 800 gallons of waste oil.
The Ed S and Ralph C feature Caterpillar 3512C Tier III main engines, which drive Reintjes WAF 773 reduction gears with a 6.440:1 ratio from Karl Senner. Both vessels are open-wheeled and feature Sound Dominator propellers with a diameter of 88 inches and a 72-inch pitch. Ship service power is from Cummins 99 kw. OSB7 Tier III generators.
The two Steiner vessels have East Park Duraweld engine coolers, Thordon Rivertough bearings, Simplan seals and 9-inch ABS cold-rolled shafts. Both vessels feature a forward fleet deck, along with a pair of Patterson 40-ton deck winches and a Thern boat handling crane.
The steering system aboard the Ed S and Ralph C is by Rio Marine, and both vessels feature Furuno electrics systems. Fendering is by Schuyler and paint is by Carboline.
The mv. Lee W, built by Verret Shipyard, stretches 138 feet long, with a width of 38 feet and a depth of 12 feet. With the pilothouse fully raised, eye level is 32 feet. Air draft can be as little as 17 feet with the pilothouse retracted. The Lee W has tankage for 65,000 gallons of fuel, 8,000 gallons of potable water, 1,000 gallons of lube oil and 2,000 gallons of waste oil.
The Lee W features a pair of Caterpillar 3516C Tier III main engines, which drive Reintjes WAF 873 reduction gears with a 7.46:1 ratio. The open-wheeled Lee W features HNS propellers with a diameter of 102 inches and an 88-inch pitch. Ship service power is from Cummins 85 kw. QSB7-DM Tier III generators.
The Lee W features flange grid coolers, a Hydra Force steering system and jack up wheelhouse system, Thordon Rivertough bearings, seals by Simplan and 10-inch ABS cold-rolled shafts. On deck, the Lee W has Patterson 65-ton galvanized deck winches, a Schoellhorn-Albrecht capstan and a Thern boat davit. The Lee W features Furuno electronics.
The Lee W’s high horsepower, retractable wheelhouse and ABS load line certificate will allow the vessel to operate not only on the mighty Mississippi but also through the low-clearance bridges in the Chicago area and on the Great Lakes, making it Enterprise’s most versatile towboat to date.
Caption for top photo: The three new boats in Enterprise Marine Products’ fleet are, from left, the Ralph C, Lee W and Ed S. (Photo by Enterprise Marine Services)
See the slideshow below for more pictures from the christening ceremony.