EDITORS NOTE: The following article about the dedication of the Robert L. Posey appeared in a recent edition of the Waterways Journal. Posey, of Philadelphia, attended the dedication in Paducah, Ky., along members of his family and friends.

After being delayed a year by last year's record-breaking floods, AEP River Operations was able to proceed with the formal dedication of the triple-screw Robert L. Posey, which had returned to service following a major repowering and refurbishing project.

The formal acceptance and welcoming event took place June 7 at Paducah, Ky. The massive vessel was on display for tours by crew family members, guests and company personnel, and the formal ceremony and reception were held at the nearby Luther F. Carson Four Rivers Center.

The vessel's namesake, Capt. Robert Posey of Philadelphia, started his river career as a deckhand for the former Oil Transport Company in 1971, where he became a pilot in 1973 and was named captain in 1975. Before joining AEP River Operations in 1992, he also worked for Apex Oil Company, Mississippi River Grain, Fer River Towing, Winterville Marine, Lawson & Lawson, and Stokes Towing.

The 190- by 54-foot vessel is one of three triple-screw towboats purchased from ACBL in 2009 and subsequently repowered and refurbished inside and out and from top to bottom. Built by Dravo Corporation at Neville Island, Pa., the Posey debuted in 1974 as the W.J. Barta for the former Valley Line Company of St. Louis, which was acquired by American Commercial Lines LLC in 1992.

The other two boats were the former Miss Kae-D, which was rededicated as the Jeffery G. Stover in 2010 (WJ, June 26, 2010), and the former Lily M. Freidman (later Norb Whitlock), which was renamed Ron W. Callegan in a ceremony in late June.

The Robert L. Posey was taken to James Marine Inc. at Paducah, where it was stripped and gutted of most equipment, all furnishings, communications and electronics equipment in preparation for a refurbishing and repowering. The existing 20-cylinder EMD diesels were pulled out and replaced with more fuel-efficient, lower-emission, EMD 16-710G7C, Tier II engines from Inland Marine Power Group, which are now common to many boats in the AEP River Operations fleet.

Joe Brantley, AEP engineering and maintenance superintendent, said the revamped triple-screw boats are capable of producing 12,000 hp., but "we're only pulling 11,100 hp. from them," he said. This extends their reliability, and reduces fuel consumption, while allowing a reserve for extra power if the situation arises, he noted.

Interior improvements included a complete rearrangement of the interior cabin layout, which resulted in separate rooms and baths for each of the 11 crew members. All spaces were stripped down to bare metal, painted or paneled and treated with extra sound-deadening insulation to bring the boat up to AEP crew-comfort standards, Brantley said.

Each room also has its own heating and air-conditioning controls and there is a physical fitness room for the crew's health benefit. Windows were relocated or replaced, and exterior doors were replaced with stainless-steel construction. The galley was completely gutted and rebuilt with more efficient appliances and a more ergonomic layout for the cook.

As suggested by AEP wheelhouse personnel, the pilothouse was removed and set back in place atop a new texas deck, which was fabricated at James Marine and set in place to provide individual quarters for the captain and pilot along with an office, while adding eight feet to the pilothouse eyelevel. Many pilothouse-raising projects have resulted in a less attractive profile, but without comparing side profile photos, one would never guess the extra deck had been added to the already attractive design. The extra deck and completely redesigned pilothouse console have brought the 38-year-old vessel up to today's standards in comfort and function.

Brantley said AEP River Operations invested $5.4 million in each of the triple-screw boats to repower and refurbish them. Although the company spent approximately $40 million to purchase the boats, repower and renovate them, he explained it is still a considerable savings compared to building a comparable new towboat. "It would cost $30 million to build a boat that size to our standards today."

Presiding at the dedication event was Capt. Jeffrey Stover, senior port captain, responsible for the regulatory side of AEP River Operations, which typically oversees the operation of the company's boats along the Lower Mississippi River. Stover is the namesake of the first of the three boats in the repower-and-rehab program.

Following a prayer of blessing and dedication for the new vessel by the Rev. Kempton D. Baldridge, chaplain, Seamen's Church Institute, Baldridge presented a new official vessel's Bible to Capt. Sam Keymon on behalf of the Seamen's Church Institute and the many mariners who have gone on before. He described the inscription in the front of the Bible as "pretty much everything one would need to know."

It read, "Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the seas, the Lord on high is mighty.

This towboat Bible is presented to the mv. Robert L. Posey in hopes that the message of peace, joy, hope and love within its pages may inform and transform all those who live and work aboard this vessel." He then told Keymon, "The next time I come aboard the Posey, I hope to see this Bible dog-eared from daily use."

The keynote speaker was Capt. Shauna Hallinan, a pilot on AEP's mv. Mary Scheel. Hallinan began her early training under the watchful eye of Capt. Posey when she began her river career as a deckhand-trainee on the mv. Christopher M. Parsonage. She said he has become one of her mentors and a great friend. She said the seed to advance was planted early when, on only the second week of her new river career, she stepped into the pilothouse with her camera and Capt. Posey told her, "'Hey girl, give me that camera and I'll take a picture of you. Get over there between those sticks.' I remember being so scared, thinking to myself, 'Dear Lord, what happens if this thing crashes!'" She said she still cherishes that photo.

She went on to say that in the ensuing years, Posey's pride in the Christopher M. Parsonage and its crew is easily recognized, adding, "Robert's dedication to the Chris Parsonage and his work as an AEP River Operations captain on the river is like none other."

She said that in spite of his joking ways, Posey is one of the most compassionate people she knows.

"He's all heart and it shows," she remarked, as she went on to describe his love for his job, his family and his faith.

In conclusion, Hallinan said she was honored when chosen to present the keynote address at the dedication where she could, "talk about a man I highly respect and care for."

She went on to say that four years ago, when Capt. Mike Morris asked Posey if he would be willing to train her to become a pilot and he responded, "'By God, I told that girl I'd make her a pilot and I'm gonna do it!'"

He was a man of his word, she said, "I would not be a pilot today without the man we're honoring here and I'm forever thankful."

Jeff Keifer, managing director of boat operations, thanked the boat's crew for their efforts in preparing the vessel for the open house and tours that preceded the dedication ceremony.

"Thank you. I'm proud of your work."

He said he was honored to represent the 1,200 people who work on the vessels within the various segments of AEP River Operations. He went on to recap Posey's AEP career: he began as a captain on the mv. Noble C. Parsonage for MEMCO in 1992. He later became captain on the mv. Michael J. Conaton, which the company had bought from M/G Transport Services in 1994 and later renamed Dru Lirette in 1998.

He was captain of the mv. Patricia Gail until he brought out the new mv. Christopher M. Parsonage in 1998, where he still serves as captain.

Keifer described Posey as one of the standout leaders at AEP River Operations, where he has been a mentor who not only has led crew members to work safely but also efficiently.

"But more importantly, he has led forward by providing opportunities and sharing his knowledge with others who have become pilots on the inland river system," Keifer noted.

He also presented Posey with a plaque inscribed in appreciation of 20 years service to the company.

In his heart-felt acceptance remarks, Posey reiterated the importance of family both ashore and on the boats as he thanked his wife and children for their endurance during 34 years of marriage with much time spent away from home.

"It's been worth it," he exclaimed. "It's been a good life and I thank the Lord I'm standing here today. He's blessed me."