Maritime Legend Passes Away

MarineLink.com
Monday, September 16, 2013
Captain Robert M. Cusick at Board of Investigation: Photo courtesy of Robert Frump

Captain Robert M. Cusick Jr., a merchant marine officer who survived the wreck of the SS Marine Electric and then helped lead a major reform of US maritime safety standards, died peacefully in his sleep in New Hampshire on Thursday, September 12, 2013, according to Carol Cusick, his daughter. He was 90 years old.

Against the advice of many friends and colleagues, Captain Cusick testified at a US Marine Board of Investigation and detailed how inspectors and company officials overlooked numerous holes in the hatches, decks and hull of the Marine Electric, an old, dilapidated World War II era tanker converted to coal carrier, (according to Robert R. Frump, former maritime writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer and author of a book about the wreck entitled "Until the Sea Shall Free Them.")

The reforms that Captain Cusick’s efforts helped establish included the creation of the now famous US Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers service, the scrapping of 70 old unsafe ships and the requirement of survival suits aboard North Atlantic run vessels," Mr. Frump said.

By most standards of survival and hypothermia, Captain Cusick, the chief mate of the SS Marine Electric, ought to have perished with dozens of others in February 1983. The SS Marine Electric foundered during a severe storm in February 1983, spilling 34 men into icy cold water where they faced sixty foot waves and below-freezing winds.

Life expectancy in such conditions is as little as 15 minutes, but Captain Cusick, wo was 59 at the time, managed to find a half-submerged lifeboat and as he felt himself fading sang out a song written by Canadian folk singer Stan Rogers with the lines, “Rise again, rise again! Like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again!” He attributed his survival to that and a warm coat and hat given to him by his wife, Mrs. Bea Cusick.

Captain Cusick was warned by colleagues that his testimony would bring the ire of the ship’s owner, Marine Transport Lines, and indeed company attorneys sought to pin the responsibility for the wreck on Captain Cusick.However, Captain Cusick kept detailed records of his complaints to the captain of the Marine Electric, with drawings of holes and other maintenance problems on the old ship. His logs, cross-checked against Coast Guard inspections, showed the hatches were approved by the Coast Guard at a time when the hatches were not even installed on the vessel, Mr. Frump wrote.

Captain Cusick’s testimony helped convince the Board of Investigation to write a highly critical report, calling on the Coast Guard to crack down on inspections. Marine Transport Line later pleaded guilty to a felony criminal count brought by federal authorities. Over the previous 20 years, old ships such as the Marine Electric had accounted for more than 500 deaths at sea. More than 70 were scrapped in the wake of Captain Cusick’s testimony.

Captain Cusick grew up in Boston and began his life at sea as a member of the Sea Scouts, a maritime version of the Boy Scouts of America. He was attending the prestigious Boston Latin school when at the beginning of World War II, he shipped out as a merchant seamen at a time when German submarines were taking a terrible toll of Atlantic Coast shipping.

He survived the war, often narrowly missing ships that would sail to their doom, and by its end was a merchant marine officer. Mechant mariners, historians say, suffered among the highest per capita losses during the War, second only to the U.S. Marines.

He would later gain his master’s license and sailed for three decades on US flag ships as an officer. He preferred to sail as chief mate – the number two position on a merchant ship – so that he could deal directly with ship mates. He was a popular officer with a kind heart and a quick wit, often taking young crewmen and officers under his wing for mentoring.

His actions are detailed in a book, “Until the Sea Shall Free Them,” written about the wreck of the Marine Electric.

Captain Cusick is survived by his wife, Bea, his daughter, Carol, both of Hillsboro. Arrangements: Wednesday 18 September, 6-8pm, visiting hours at Woodbury/Holt funeral home on School St. in Hillsboro. Service Thursday 19 September, 11 am, at St. Mary's Church, followed by a send off at the Legion Hall. Woodbury/Holt contact information is 32 School St Hillsboro, NH 03244 
(603) 464-5501


 
SS Marine Electric: Image credit: the author
 

Maritime Reporter September 2014 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

People & Company News

Decade Old India Shipping Summit Makes History

In ten years, India Shipping Summit held consistently in Mumbai, has sailed on a robust growth course despite the worldwide witnessing recessionary waves buffeting any endeavors to grow and gain.

Liebherr to Deliver RTGs to Mayotte and Manila

Liebherr confirms orders for variable speed RTGs and electric RTGs. DPWorld Asian Terminals Inc. has placed an order with Liebherr Container Cranes for a further 5 RTGs at its Manila facility.

U.S. Navy Contracts 12 Rapid Response Skimmers

Kvichak Marine won a US Navy contract for 12 30-ft.Rapid Response Skimmers (RRS) for delivery over the next 18 months, with options for up to 30 additional skimmers to be delivered through 2019.

Legal

WFW Advises ING Bank on $340m Loan Facility for Euronav

Watson, Farley & Williams (WFW) has advised ING Bank N.V. (ING) as sole bookrunner and facility agent for a syndicate of banks on a $340 million loan facility made available to Euronav NV.

UN Authorizes Ship Inspections Near Somalia For Arms, Charcoal

The United Nations Security Council authorized the inspection of boats suspected of carrying illegal shipments of charcoal or weapons to and from Somalia on Friday,

Foster Wheeler & MDM Engineering Merged

Foster Wheeler AG announced today that an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of the Company has completed the acquisition of MDM Engineering Group Limited (“MDM”)

Casualties

16 Die in Coal Mine Accident in China

Sixteen workers were killed after a coal mine collapsed in China's far western region of Xinjiang, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday, highlighting

USCG Monitoring Barge adrift in Beaufort Sea

U.S. Coast Guard personnel and Canadian federal agencies, including the Canadian coast guard, Transport Canada and Environment Canada, are monitoring a 134-foot

Three Dead in Offshore Platform Accident

Three workers were killed and one is still missing after an accident at one of the offshore oil and gas platforms in the Caspian Sea in Azerbaijan, Azeri state energy company SOCAR said on Thursday.

Naval Architecture

Rederij Groen Takes Delivery of 7-Waves

Rederij Groen’s entire SRSV fleet built by Damen Maaskant Shipyards Stellendam. Dutch offshore services company Rederij Groen has taken delivery of the 7-Waves,

New Research Vessel Delivered on the Great Lakes

The new oceanographic research and fisheries assessment vessel, Arcticus, completed her sea trials and was delivered to the U.S. Geological Survey's Great Lakes Science Center on October 17.

New Standard for LNG Cargo Containment Systems

Wilhelmsen Technical Solutions (WTS) said it has successfully completing the gas trial for the first LNG carrier built to a Boil Off Rate (BOR) of 0.08% per day.

Coast Guard

USCG to Ensure Safety During World Series

The Coast Guard and local agencies are working to ensure the safety of boaters and baseball fans during World Series games at AT&T Park this weekend. The

USCG Monitoring Barge adrift in Beaufort Sea

U.S. Coast Guard personnel and Canadian federal agencies, including the Canadian coast guard, Transport Canada and Environment Canada, are monitoring a 134-foot

EUCAP Nestor Train 30 Somali Coast Guards

On 21 October, the European Union’s Maritime Capacity Building Mission in the Horn of Africa and Western Indian Ocean (EUCAP Nestor) celebrated the successful completion of a two month Mentoring,

Maritime Safety

USCG to Ensure Safety During World Series

The Coast Guard and local agencies are working to ensure the safety of boaters and baseball fans during World Series games at AT&T Park this weekend. The

Navy to Commission Submarine North Dakota

The Navy will commission its newest attack submarine North Dakota, during a ceremony Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014, at Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut.

UN: Ship Inspections near Somalia for Arms, Charcoal

The United Nations Security Council authorized the inspection of boats suspected of carrying illegal shipments of charcoal or weapons to and from Somalia on Friday,

People in the News

Decade Old India Shipping Summit Makes History

In ten years, India Shipping Summit held consistently in Mumbai, has sailed on a robust growth course despite the worldwide witnessing recessionary waves buffeting any endeavors to grow and gain.

USCG to Ensure Safety During World Series

The Coast Guard and local agencies are working to ensure the safety of boaters and baseball fans during World Series games at AT&T Park this weekend. The

16 Die in Coal Mine Accident in China

Sixteen workers were killed after a coal mine collapsed in China's far western region of Xinjiang, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday, highlighting

History

Decade Old India Shipping Summit Makes History

In ten years, India Shipping Summit held consistently in Mumbai, has sailed on a robust growth course despite the worldwide witnessing recessionary waves buffeting any endeavors to grow and gain.

Sea Dispute Sparks China Diplomat to Vietnam Visit

China's top diplomat to visit Vietnam again amid sea dispute   China's top diplomat will visit Vietnam next week, China said on Friday, five months after he last

Historic Mexican Ship Visits Port of LA

ARM Cuauhtémoc, a Mexican Navy barque, also known as the Ambassador and Gentleman of the Seas, will sail into the Port of Los Angeles next week and offer free public

 
 
Maritime Contracts Maritime Security Naval Architecture Offshore Oil Pod Propulsion Port Authority Ship Repair Ship Simulators Shipbuilding / Vessel Construction Winch
rss | archive | history | articles | privacy | terms and conditions | contributors | top maritime news | about us | copyright | maritime magazines
maritime security news | shipbuilding news | maritime industry | shipping news | maritime reporting | workboats news | ship design | maritime business

Time taken: 0.1953 sec (5 req/sec)