News & Announcements

Cleaning up oil on Independence Day

Dauphin Island, Alabama, 6 July 2010 It is 0600 at the dock in Dauphin Island, Alabama, and the men who will be trying to prevent the spill spreading any further are turning up for their clean-up and containment duties.

Day 77 of the oil spill is a federal holiday, Independence Day, but it makes no difference here.

There is a job to be done. Except this morning the weather is not co-operating. It is stormy out there and the boats which are used to lay the boom to prevent the oil coming ashore, and to take the men out to clean the beaches on the far side of this small island in Mobile Bay, are not going out. 

Henry de La Garza, a spokesman for BP, says there is lightning offshore and it is too dangerous to set sail.

The hurricane season is complicating an already fraught protection and clean-up operation.

For the 1,800 people who live on Dauphin Island, this should be the busiest time of year.

July 4th weekend usually draws at least 13,000 tourists but as the mayor of Dauphin Island, Jeff Collier, tells the BBC, this is the place that time forgot. 

He cuts a solitary figure on the golf course.

"Normally you would have hundreds of people playing here. We have a golf tournament usually, as well as the firework display."

Not this year.

The mayor has cancelled the celebrations because no one is in the mood. They are all focussed on trying to protect the island from the worst of the spill. 

Laura Trevelyan, BBC News

Dauphin Island, Alabama

De La Garza PR
De La Garza PR

Crumbled dream

Six hundred people man the beaches and collect the tar balls as soon as they wash in. 

The beaches are clean and a few swimmers are enjoying the waves, an incongruous sight next to the workers sifting through the sand.

Mounds of sand called berms have been heaped on to the beach, a further line of defence against the oil. Out to sea, an even more ambitious project is under way.

Hurricane Katrina in 2005 left a mile-wide gash in Dauphin Island and now barges full of rocks are out there in the water, as the attempt is made to close the gap between the two sides of the island to prevent the oil washing on to land.

People fear a hurricane could blow the oil through the Katrina cut, and on to Alabama's Gulf coast.

Whatever can be done to stop the oil comes too late for retired nurse Fae Chamblis. Her dream of running a tiki bar in the sun has crumbled.

The small amounts of oil on the beaches have driven away her customers and she will close in September.

"The oil spill has put me out of business," says Fae sadly. 

Something to celebrate

Mayor Collier is hoping that by September there may be something to celebrate, like the capping of the leaking well.

"What we are hoping is that when things get cleared up and cleaned, we might be looking ahead to possibly Labor Day," he says.

"When we feel there is a time to truly celebrate, then we might go back and revisit the idea of fireworks."

For Dauphin Beach, the holiday marking America's independence from England is spent cleaning up after a British company, BP.

But apart from what Sandi Sands, who handles security for the mammoth containment operation, calls a few off-colour jokes, the focus here is not on Brit-bashing but on co-operation.

"America is coming together," says Sandi, a lifelong Dauphin Island resident. "I am so pleased, we aren't alone." 

Laura Trevelyan BBC News, 

Dauphin Island, Alabama


Fearless actions of two veteran Houston Pilots
helped save the day on the Houston Ship Channel

Houston, TX  September 16, 2016 - The heroic and brave actions of two Houston Pilots aboard the burning tanker AFRAMAX RIVER protected lives and prevented a bad situation from getting much worse, said Captain Robert M. Shearon, Presiding Officer.

Captain Michael McGee and Captain Michael Phillips were dispatched September 6 to the M/T AFRAMAX RIVER at Houston Fuel Oil Berth 3.  Due to its large size, this massive tanker required two pilots.  Capt. McGee was conning the vessel and undocking when the ship experienced an engine failure and struck two mooring dolphins located just off of the end of ITC Berths 7/8 at about 0010 hours.

As a result of the contact, a port fuel tank ruptured causing a spill of diesel fuel that ignited and burned. The pilots maintained their stations in the wheelhouse surrounded by a towering wall of burning fuel. Both sides of the vessel were engulfed with flames which covered the bridge wings. The surrounding water was also on fire.

Capt. McGee maneuvered the stricken vessel away from surrounding ships and hove to in the middle of the channel to prevent the flames from spreading to the numerous tank vessels moored on both sides of the channel. Simultaneously, Capt. Phillips handled communications with the Coast Guard and coordinated firefighting efforts with the tugs and fireboats via radio. The blaze continued for more than one hour.  The tugs heroically stayed with the vessel fighting the fire and helping maintain its position.

One pilot’s face and hair were singed. The other pilot broke out and charged a firehose and extinguished a fire on the port bridge wing himself. The fire was extinguished on the morning of September 6, 2016 without any immediate reports of personal injury. There was property damage to the M/T AFRAMAX RIVER, and the resulting fire may have also caused property damage to the assisting harbor tugs.  Once the fire was extinguished, Capt. McGee brought the vessel safety to the Cemex dock as directed by the Coast Guard.

Capt. McGee has been a Houston Pilot for 18 years and Capt. Phillips for 24 years.  Houston Pilots are state licensed pilots appointed by the Governor to guide ships safely in and out of our port.

“Captains McGee and Phillips exemplify the calibre of dedicated mariners that make up the membership of the Houston Pilots,” said Captain Shearon, “We are very proud of them.  All Texans can take pride in our commitment to ensuring safety on the Houston Ship Channel.”


Louis Dreyfus Highbridge Energy LLC Closes $2.0 Billion Senior Secured Credit Facilities

October 29, 2010 WILTON, Conn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Diversified energy commodities merchant Louis Dreyfus Highbridge Energy LLC (“LDH Energy”) announces the renewal of the Company’s $2.0 billion senior secured working capital facility. The facilities refinance the Company’s existing $2.0 billion working capital facility that expires in December 2011 and will be used to fund general working capital needs including accounts receivable, the purchase of inventory, and other corporate requirements.

The transaction was well received by the market and is notable as the first transaction with a large 5-year tranche in the U.S. commodity finance sector since the market dislocation in November 2008. 

Energy commented, “We are very pleased with the successful renewal of this facility which will maintain our strong level of financial flexibility and liquidity. The support from the banking community for a transaction of this size and duration is a strong show of support for our business.” 

The Facilities were jointly arranged by BNP Paribas, The Royal Bank of Scotland, Société Générale, Credit Agricole and Natixis. BNP Paribas is the Administrative Agent. The Facilities consist of two tranches: 

$1.25 billion senior secured multi-currency 3-year working capital facility expiring in October 2013

$750 million senior secured multi-currency 5-year working capital facility expiring in October 2015 

This transaction follows LDH Energy’s successful syndication of a $350 million term loan and revolving credit facility supporting the Company’s midstream energy assets business in December 2009.

Louis Dreyfus Highbridge Energy LLC
John Gianukakis, (203) 761-8023


The French Connection:

                       Brief history of Mobile Bar Pilots

Pilots and Mobile, Alabama date back to the French arrival there in 1702.

Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville founded Fort Louis de La Louisiana to take advantage of the natural harbor located southeast of Massacre Island and inshore of Pelican Island.   The harbor conditions at the time were described as very favorable for shipping and commerce: “In the port there are five and one-half to six fathoms of water, very little swell, and the bottom is all sand and mud.” Additionally, “It is capable of containing more than fifteen vessels of forty to fifty cannons and many other smaller ones.”

The first known professional pilot found working Mobile Bay was Nicholas La Voye.  Little is known about La Voye other than that he ran the vessel ESPERANCE aground near Massacre Island, much to the chagrin of its skipper, Ensign Jousellin de Marigny.   

In 1705, three ships - Saint-Antoine, Precieuse and Nuestra Señora de la Rosario - were lost around Mobile Bay.  Sailing conditions in the anchorage outside the bay were known to be “very good” except when the winds were not favorable for entering.  And ship traffic in the period was described as light but, nevertheless, the three casualties clearly suggested the need for permanent harbor pilots.

First Permanent Pilot

After several vital supply ships were lost attempting to enter the bay, the King of France appointed Simon Causott - a resident of Massacre Island - as the first permanent pilot.  Causott’s assignment was to safely navigate ships across the sand bar at the bay’s entrance.  

French influence would last until Mobile came under the jurisdiction of the United States in 1813.  The Bar Pilots shortly later lived in the Navy Cove community known as Pilot Town.  The pilots initially worked independent of each other.  When a ship was spotted on the horizon, a race would ensue and the fastest boat won the job.  But this system of competitive pilotage proved to be inefficient and problematic.

In order to improve their service, the pilots needed to be stationed at the sea buoy instead of Pilot Town. There was just one problem, maintaining a pilot boat large enough to handle the rough weather in the open seas was too expensive for one man. In 1843, four pilots found a solution. They formed a consortium, purchased a new boat, and took turns with the jobs. Within a decade, four other consortiums had formed to operate on the Mobile Bar.

The Civil War

The outbreak of the Civil War resulted in the destruction or confiscation of all of the antebellum pilot boats. When the war ended, the sixteen pilots pooled their resources and formed the Mobile Bar Pilot Association. The exact date is not recorded, but it likely happened around June 23, 1865, the date that President Andrew Johnson officially ended the blockade.

In the early 1800’s, Mobile Bay was too shallow for ocean-going vessels to sail to Mobile harbor, so the vessels anchored in the lower bay and their cargo was transferred into smaller boats. Beginning in 1831, the Mobile Ship Channel was incrementally dredged. This led to a second system of pilotage. Bar Pilots navigated the ships into the lower bay anchorage, and after the vessel’s draft was lightened, Upper Bay Pilots guided the vessels into Mobile harbor. In 1888, dredging began that would eliminate the need for the lower bay anchorage. 

Pilot Groups Merge

This led to the merger of the two pilot organizations in 1894. The company was known as the Mobile Bar and Bay Pilots Association until it was reorganized in 1931, and the name was shortened to the Mobile Bar Pilots Association. In 1997 the company was once again reorganized and is now known as Mobile Bar Pilots, LLC.

Pilots Lost on Duty

Over the course of the last 304 years, 162 mariners have served as pilots for the Port of Mobile. Four of them have died while on duty:

Johnnie Johnson 1864-1928: Captain Johnson was crushed to death between the pilot boat and the pier at Fort Morgan during a gale on May 20, 1928.

John Edward Wilson 1886-1944: Captain Wilson died while piloting a ship in the vicinity of the Middle Bay Lighthouse. 

John Alex Norville 1894-1947: Captain Norville was lost at sea after falling from a pilot ladder on March 8, 1947.

Walter Andrew Johnson 1964-2015: Captain Johnson died shortly after boarding a ship at the sea buoy on January 9, 2015.    

Mobile Bar Pilots Today

Today, there are 13 Mobile Bar Pilots  and 6 apprentice pilots in training.  They operate two pilot boats, the Alabama and Mobile which have been docked on Dauphin Island since 1965.   The pilots handle an average of 3,000 transits each year including containerships, crude oil tankers, product tankers, military vessels, bulk carriers with coal, steel, and grain as well as general cargo vessels with rolled/coiled steel and wood products.  There are two large repair shipyards in Mobile that require pilots to handle numerous vessels that call these facilities.  They also see numerous specialty vessels constructed for work in the oilfield.  And commencing November 2016.  The Mobile pilots will board the Carnival Fantasy on a weekly basis. 

The Mobile Bar Pilots enjoy one of the safest records in the industry and are highly regarded supporters of the Mobile community.   


The Yellow Rose Lives On

De La Garza PR

Houston, August 26– She's capable of 29 knots, and glistens with state-of-the-art technology. She’s tailor made for the demanding work of the Houston Pilots who have named her, The Yellow Rose. Constructed by Kvichak Marine Industries in Seattle and designed by Camarc Design in the UK, the 75 ft by 21 ft boat will be the fifth member to join the fleet. To ensure good luck to the vessel and those she transports, the Houston Pilots will christen The Yellow Rose at 10 a.m on August 28, 2010 at Barbours Cut Cruise Terminal. 

The Pilots want the new addition to reflect their Texas pride. The Yellow Rose is one of Texas’ oldest legends. During the Texas Revolution, a young indentured servant was overseeing Morgan’s Point for the Morgan family. Ms. Emily West Morgan was known for her intelligence and sophistication and used these characteristics to her and Texas’ advantage when she was taken captive by Santa Anna. Legend has it that she held the Mexican leader’s ear while funneling information back to Sam Houston. Houston attacked Santa Anna’s fort and Emily was declared a hero. The Morgan family was taken aback by her courage, released her as a servant and paid her way home.

De La Garza PR

Commissioned by Congressman Gene Green (D-TX), The Yellow Rose will be officially introduced by the Houston Pilot’s Presiding Officer Captain Tom Pace. After a blessing given by Father Rivers Patout, Congressman Green’s wife Helen Green will deliver the christening and break a champagne bottle against The Yellow Rose. The bottle’s pieces will be placed in a ceremonial bag to be displayed at the Houston Pilots’ headquarters. At a reception held immediately after, The Slap Out Gully Boys will provide musical entertainment, featuring the Texas folk song “Yellow Rose.” 

Founded in 1921, the Houston Pilots ensure environmental and public safety navigating the vessels that call on The Port of Houston and its ship channel, while maintaining professionalism and stimulating economic development within the Houston area and throughout the state and country. As exclusive agents commissioned by the Port of Houston Authority, they guide the ships that deliver the goods. It is estimated that more than 220 million tons of cargo traveled through the Port of Houston last year, contributing to 785,000 jobs statewide.

Please contact:  

Katie Winslow,, (281) 650-1201.

City of Houston Kicks Off Graffiti Abatement Program

Houston, TX – October 4, 2010 The Greater East End Management District was recently awarded a graffiti abatement contract from the City of Houston to remove unsightly graffiti from city property. 

Houston City Council passed the ordinance in an effort to beautify the city, and limit gang activity. They have committed to a five year contract. The Management District will begin cleaning up city property three weeks after the contract is finalized. The City received multiple bids, however the Greater East End Management District was able to provide an hourly rate of $80, which includes labor and material. 

“Per square foot, they have found a cheaper way to do it,” said City Councilwoman Lovell. 

Graffiti was out of control and threatening to overrun Houston’s East End in 2001. It endangered neighborhoods and vandalized bus stops, commercial properties and residences.

In response, The Greater East End Management District initiated an aggressive graffiti abatement program in 2001 to take control of an unsightly problem. The District’s Graffiti Abatement Program removes more than 9,000 instances of graffiti each year. The East End District is the only management district in the city that has extensive experience in employing a graffiti abatement program. Because of its successes, 14 other management districts in the city approached the East End District to abate the graffiti in their areas. In addition to removing these defacements, they also keep a database of gang-related tags and report activity to the Mayor’s Anti-Gang Office.

“Graffiti is like leaving your front door open for criminals,” said Diane Schenke, President of the Greater East End Management District.

Graffiti abatement is one of four programs provided by the East End Management District to provide a safe environment and attract more business opportunities within the district and among members. The Graffiti Abatement Program has won several awards from the city including the Mayor’s Proud Partner Award and the Greater Houston Partnership Quality of Life Award.

Founded in 1999, The Greater East End Management District’s mission is to enhance the image of the District, to attract more businesses, and to increase economic activity in the area.


For More Information:

Diane Schenke, (713) 928-9916