On November 11, 2010 Captain Brian Fournier and the crews of the ANDREW MCALLISTER and IONA MCALISTER adverted disaster with their quick thinking and skill. It began as a normal escort job of the tanker GREAT EASTERN. The tanker was inbound to the Citgo Terminal approaching the Casco Bay bridge. Captain Fournier, the pilot aboard the GREAT EASTERN, radioed the bridge to open. The bridge tender informed the ship that they could proceed and he would immediately open the span. The bridge normally takes 5 minutes to open fully allowing passage. Upon closer approach Captain Fournier noticed that the bridge had not begun opening. The bridge tender then informed him that the bridge could not open due to vehicles positioned inside the safety gates. Captain Fournier immediately asked the GREAT EASTERN for an astern bell, but the vessel’s propulsion system failed to answer. At that time Brian knew it would be up to the ANDREW and IONA to stop the ship from ramming the bridge.
The ANDREW was positioned on the center line stern and the IONA was on the starboard bow. Brian remembers issuing the order, “On the ANDREW, you back full until you hear me say Andrew stop! No matter what else you hear keep backing until you hear the stop order!” Captain Bob Rand aboard the ANDREW and Captain Dave Mason on the IONA responded immediately and effectively. Prior to the full back order the ship was travelling at 5.2 knots, but due to the power of the tugs and the expertise of their crews they were able to fully stop the ship in under 3 minutes. When the order of back full was halted the ship was only 1 length away (600 ft.) and had moved 50’ off the center line.
The bridge was eventually cleared and able to open. The tugs repositioned the GREAT EASTERN and proceeded to the Citgo Terminal. Captain Fournier said “I had the utmost faith in the ANDREW and all of the crews. The ANDREW is an incredible piece of equipment and she proved her worth on that job alone.” For their actions Capt. Fournier, Capt. Rand and the crew of the ANDREW, and Capt. Mason and the crew of the IONA were presented with a Certificate of Appreciation from the United States Coast Guard. Captain James McPherson, Commander, Sector Northern New England presented the awards at a local Propeller Club meeting. McAllister would like to congratulate everyone on a job well done!