It began as a routine ship assignment for Aransas-Corpus Christi Pilot Captain Bob Lippold. The mild-mannered pilot during his 20+years career has safely guided hundreds of ships as well as logged thousands of wheelhouse hours sailing on the Corpus Christi Ship Channel. But this sail would test and challenge his experience and skills as a harbor pilot.
At approximately 1800 hours January 5, 2017, the veteran pilot boarded the AP REVELIN at Cargo Dock #9. The Marshall Islands-flagged bulk carrier was built in 2016, measures 590 ft. by 106 ft. and has a Deadweight of 38,700 tons. The hulking ship was well underway outbound and passing the Port Aransas Ferry Terminals when it suddenly lost power approaching the demanding turn where the channel intersects the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. A fuel injector had failed, causing a loss of power and crippling the ship. Navigating a ship at the intracoastal juncture is a highly challenging endeavor even when all vessel systems are functioning properly.
Rapidly losing speed and steerage, Captain Lippold quickly devised a clever plan to use the ship’s anchors and water currents to steer the AP REVELIN toward the south side of the channel before the vessel reached the rock jetties. The veteran pilot also made use of a nearby Pilot Boat to swing the bow of the vessel toward the bank so that it aligned evenly with the stern, essentially docking a 590-foot vessel in the entry of the ship channel.
“Captain Lippold’s actions prevented damage to the ship and nearby structures as well as avoided a possible pollution incident resulting in a closure of the ship channel for several days,” said Captain Michael T. Cunningham, deputy captain of the port. “He directly contributed to the safe anchoring of the AP REVELIN at a safe location away from passing ships and shoreline property.”
The USCG on February 21, 2017 presented one of its highest honors, the Meritorious Public Service Award, to Captain Lippold for his “quick and decisive actions” in preventing a serious marine casualty after his ship lost power approaching a dangerous intersection on the ship channel on that fateful evening.
Captain Cunningham commended Captain Lippold for his significant accomplishments improving the safety of our nation's ports and waterways. “Your actions are in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Coast Guard,” said Captain Cunningham.
“Captain Bob Lippold is exemplifies the caliber of harbor pilots who make up the Aransas-Corpus Christi Pilots,” said Captain Jay Rivera, presiding officer.