The mv. Shawn Williams was built by Eymard Marine Construction & Repair. (Photo by Frank McCormack)
February 20, 2017
By Frank McCormack
On the afternoon of January 27—a cold and wintry day by New Orleans’ standards—friends, family, team members and customers of Wood Resources LLC gathered at the company’s sand pit on the west bank of the Mississippi River in Waggaman, La., to celebrate the christening of the mv. Shawn Williams, the seventh vessel in the Wood Towing fleet.
The name on the new vessel should be a familiar one for anyone interacting with Wood Towing. Shawn Williams, a 25-year captain, is a second generation mariner with the company.
“My dad worked here 40-plus years, so we’re family,” Williams said, referring to Wood Towing mainstay Capt. Melvin Williams. “He brought us all up [on the water], both my brothers. It’s a family business. I have uncles, cousins, nephews that have all worked for this company.”
In fact, another Wood Towing vessel, the mv. Terrel Williams, bears the name of his brother. The Williams family grew up in Lafitte, La., a tiny village settled on the banks of Bayou Barataria, where being on the water is an integral part of life.
“Good old bayou boys—that’s where we lived on the water,” Williams said. “We lived in the marsh when we were kids. I was 13 and had a flatboat. Most kids get toys. I was 13 and had my own boat.”
Williams offered a familiar refrain, heard often from mariners who have a family legacy away from terra firma: “The water runs through our veins,” he said.
Speaking to the crowd gathered for the christening ceremony, Williams recognized two Wood Towing captains—other than his father—who have made a big difference in his life and career.
“I want to thank my mentors, Terrel Williams and Kenny Billiot,” he said. “Without those two guys pushing my head underneath the water saying ‘You can do it! You can do it!’ and bringing me up through the system and through the company, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Williams also thanked the Wood family and pointed to bright days ahead for the company.
“There are two people I’d love to see here today: my dad and your dad, Mr. Don,” Williams said, speaking to Donald Wood Sr.’s three children, Pearce, Donald Jr. and Sarah Louise Ham, who now lead the company. “I’m so grateful for everything. We’ll continue to strive. We’re going to get bigger and better. This company, Wood Towing—we ain’t no joke.”
The Mv. Shawn Williams
Pearce Wood, who directs the materials division of Wood Resources, introduced the vessel to the crowd gathered for the christening.
“It’s a beautiful boat,” Pearce Wood said. “The guys brought it up last night, and they said there were no vibrations, a solid boat, and really a well-built boat.”
The mv. Shawn Williams was designed by Entech & Associates and built by Eymard Marine Construction & Repair Inc. in Harvey, La.
The mv. Shawn Williams measures 65.5 feet by 28 feet with a draft of 9.5 feet. The pilothouse offers an eye level of 29 feet. The vessel is driven by two Cummins QSK38-M1 Tier 3 engines from Cummins Mid-South, each rated at 1,000 hp. Main engines are paired to Twin Disc MG540 gearboxes with a 7:1 reduction ratio from Fabick Power Systems. Donovan Marine provided the 72- by 59-inch four blade Hung Shen propellers, while shafts were machined by S&S Machine & Marine Fabricators.
Donovan Marine also supplied the mv. Shawn Williams’ Johnson stuffing boxes, Durablue bearings, Johnson Duramax engine cooling system, Fast Systems wastewater treatment system, fire safety equipment, Patterson deck winches and a Schoellhorn-Albrecht capstan.
Allemand Industries Inc. provided the ship’s John Deere 65 kw. generators. Engine controls are by Jonny White’s C&W Air Repair. Engine alarms are by Rio Marine Inc. The steering system is by Custom Hydraulic. A Furuno radar, radios and other communications equipment was provided by Wheelhouse Electronics. Fendering is by Schuyler Marine.
The mv. Shawn Williams features three staterooms and two bathrooms, with accommodations for six crew members. The vessel has the capacity to carry 4,150 gallons of potable water and 10,400 gallons of fuel.
The boat was completed December 20, 2016.
The mv. Shawn Williams will do fleet work on the Lower Mississippi River above New Orleans. Sarah Louise Ham, who leads Wood Towing and the land and development divisions of Wood Resources, said the mv. Shawn Williams is part of the “United States inland marine transportation [system that] facilitates the global trade of bulk cargo.”
“What that really means is, that boat is going to help get corn from Iowa to cows in China,” Ham said. “In addition to feeding the world, this boat has provided lots of jobs to people in this audience. We have bankers, surveyors, we have lawyers, we have insurance people. The trickle down effect is huge when you build a boat. We also provide jobs for 10 of our Louisiana families to help them purchase their homes, feed and educate their children and pursue their passions.”
Ham also heaped praise on the new towboat’s namesake.
“We named it after Capt. Shawn Williams for a lot of reasons,” she said. “Shawn has been part of our family since he was about 2—I’m not kidding.”
Ham also said Williams’ character and work ethic mirror the values that drive the company as a whole.
“Shawn demonstrates the values Wood Resources holds dear: excellence, family, integrity and team work,” Ham said. “There’s not a better captain on the Mississippi River or the canal than Shawn Williams, hands down. Excellence runs in his blood.”
Donald Wood Jr., who leads Wood Resources’ dredging division, was also sure to thank those present for playing a huge role in the company’s success.
“No one here is just a business partner or an employee or a customer,” Donald Wood said. “Y’all are our friends and our family. One thing our dad made clear early in our career was that the most important assets weren’t the boats or machinery but the people who work for us and with us. Together we all make this company what it is.”
After a brief blessing ceremony, Williams’ wife, Robin, formally christened the mv. Shawn Williams into the Wood Towing fleet as she shattered a bottle of champagne against the vessel’s port side push knee.