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Kent company helps repair stalled ship
Steve McDaniel had his doubts about a late-night call from his boss to respond to a stalled bulk carrier ship in Elliott Bay.
Gabe and Erin Gilliam, owners of Pirtek Kent, which provides mobile hydraulic and other high-pressure hose repair service to the marine, construction and trucking industries, had an urgent message for McDaniel, a service technician. They needed him to take a new hose to the ship.
"When I first got the call from Erin she was trying to explain the dangling lifeboat on a ship," McDaniel said as he retold the story about his April Fool's night and the 10:30 p.m. call. "I thought about how I'd have to climb out to the lifeboat. I thought it was an April Fool's joke."
The Gilliam's had pulled a few April Fool's Day jokes on their technicians earlier in the day. In fact, when they received a late-night call from Singapore, they expected an employee attempted to get them back with their own joke.
"The call came in from Singapore and my husband thought he was joking," Erin Gilliam said. "We average 10 to 12 jobs a day but all are local calls. He (her husband) was kind of laughing and handed me the phone.
"I started talking to the guy and began thinking this was not one of our technicians. I started to take information and he wanted to shoot an email of failed hose (so Pirtek could make one). He said it was very urgent."
Singapore-based ISM Ship Management Co. had the Korean Lily ship coming into the Port of Seattle from Alaska when a lifeboat operational test failed because of a blown hydraulic hose.
"The lifeboat was dangling, so they couldn't come to port," Gilliam said.
Gilliam said a technician normally inspects and makes a hose on site, but the shipping crew gave specifications of the hose, so Pirtek made it ahead of time.
The crew anchored the large ship in Elliott Bay on its way to Harbor Island to drop off a load of grain early in the morning. The crew lined up a transport boat through Arrow Marine Services to transport McDaniel to the ship after he drove his mobile van from his Edmonds home to the Seattle passenger dock.
It took about 30 minutes for the transport boat to reach the ship.
"I could see it stuck," McDaniel said about the lifeboat. "If it fell, it'd go into the water."
McDaniel had to jump from the transport boat to stairs on side of the ship.
"Then they hauled my tools up with a rope and I went up a 20-foot ladder to fix the hose," McDaniel said. "It took 20 minutes to fix it and 20 minutes to get paid."
The crew showed plenty of praise for McDaniel, who had the job done by midnight.
"I was like the superhero," McDaniel said. "They were patting me on the back."
The ship flew a Panama flag. It had a Korean captain and mainly Filipino crew. About 15 people were on deck when McDaniel arrived.
"They were super nice guys," McDaniel said. "The captain and chief engineer took me into this room and paid in cash."
The hose cost $150 and the crew had to pay an after-hours service charge.
"They were in panic mode," McDaniel said. "They attempted to fix the hose, a 5,000 PSI (pounds of force per square inch) high pressure hose, but it didn't work. They hit the lever and it popped."
McDaniel looks back proudly about the call.
"This was definitely the funnest job I've had to date," said McDaniel, who started in December with Pirtek.
The Gilliam's opened Pirtek Kent in 2006. Erin Gilliam's parents are part-owners. The center employs 10 and has five service trucks. It provides 24-hour service. Florida-based Pirtek features about 50 service centers across the nation. Woodinville is the only other location in Washington.
Kent Pirtek also does work for the U.S. Coast Guard, recently replacing about 300 hoses on the icebreaker Healey in Seattle.
"We work on car haulers, dump trucks, anything with a hose we'll come and fix," McDaniel said.
Even a large ship stuck in Elliott Bay.
"Maybe our next move will be mobile tugboat response," said Erin Gilliam, whose company also has responded to cruise ships, barges and fishing vessels.