Blessey Christens Mv. John Dempsey

By David Murray

The most recent addition to the Blessey Marine Services fleet, the mv. John Dempsey, is named for one of Blessey’s own: its chief marketing and operations officer.

For this christening, held on August 22 at Brady’s Landing, a popular waterside restaurant in Houston, Walter Blessey, chairman and chief executive officer of Blessey Marine Services, did something unusual: he treated his employee and friend John Dempsey to a roast. As Dempsey sat in a chair before about 200 people—one of the largest crowds ever for a Blessey christening, as Blessey noted—his boss regaled the crowd with colorful (and fictional) stories about golf outings and ski trips, complete with alleged fights and humorous pratfalls.

But when the ribbing and laughing were over, Blessey president Clark Todd came forward to talk about the John Dempsey he knows, who he sees, he said, as his “oldest brother” and to whom “I talk more than I do my wife.”

Dempsey came to the river industry by an unusual route. When Todd met Dempsey, the latter was managing a Porche/Audi dealership and servicing Todd’s wife’s car. Todd said he was impressed by the way Dempsey treated customers. Before that, Dempsey had run a bike shop and a liquor distributorship, and before that, he had pitched minor league baseball professionally before an injury ended his career. He shares with Walter Blessey a commitment to mentoring young people, and has served as president of the Houston Boys’ Club.

After some years spent at Blessey as vice president of marketing, where he increased business, Dempsey said he wanted to be in operations. “Now John has the biggest job in the company,” said Blessey. He is currently overseeing a company reorganization.

Finally Dempsey himself took the floor, thanking almost everyone in the company by name for upholding Blessey principles: “We do what we say we’re going to do, and a contract is more than a contract.”

He spoke of the “tremendous role” that Walter Blessey had played in his life, especially when his mother, father and father-in-law passed away, and of his respect for boat crews who spend much of their lives on the water away from their families.

Sneed, Blessey Growing Together

In the front row sat Mitch Jones, chief executive officer of Sneed Shipbuilding, which built the John Dempsey and is scheduled to build two more Blessey boats this year. The relationship between the two companies is a family affair: Jones spent years with Blessey before leaving to join Sneed five years ago.

Jones rose to tell Dempsey and the crowd that he was “honored that Sneed built the boat that bears your name.” Jones noted that Blessey started in 1995 with 13 boats and 30 barges, and after 14 years of growth had 50 boats and 100 barges. “I hope Sneed will continue to be part of this growth,” he said

When Jones joined Sneed, it had 150 employees; today, that number is about 300. It has built 82 vessels in total, including 49 new towing vessels, 30 barges, and one offshore liftboat. The company has an 18-month backlog, said Jones, including the two Blessey boats.

Jones is also proud, he said, of Sneed’s export business: the company recently delivered a boat to Paraguay, one of the few U.S. companies to do so. Exporting, he added, is something more U.S. companies need to do to safeguard U.S. jobs.

Jones thanked all the Sneed personnel who had a hand in the John Dempsey, including owner Clyde Sneed and his wife Judy, chief financial officer Kevin Leary, general manager Martin Reyes, and carpentry manager Salvador Rojas, whose team built the handsome wooden cabinetry.

Deacon Alan Frederickson of the Houston Seamen’s Church Institute then blessed water with which he sprinkled the crew. Like many SCI ministers, Frederickson is a former seaman himself, having begun sailing deep-sea vessels at age 15, he said, before he entered the seminary.

The mv. John Dempsey is 87 feet long and 32 feet wide, with a draft of 10 feet. It’s driven by two 1,000 hp. main Cummins K38M engines, with Reintjes WAF-572 gears. Cummins also provided the QSB7-DM 85 kw. generator sets.

The John Dempsey berths up to seven in comfortable, wood-paneled cabins. It carries up to 28,400 gallons of fuel and 11,000 gallons of potable water. Its engine alarms were made by Baton Rouge Marine Electrical Services, and its running gear by RC Schmidt. Dale’s Welding provided the doors, and Patterson provided the electric 40-ton winches.

Navigation electronics were supplied by D&G Communications.

The crew of the mv. John Dempsey at the christening was Capt. Chris Rupell, relief Capt. Ryan Battlefield, tankermen Hunter Adams and Quentin Aikins, tankerman trainee Austin Angle and deckhand Sam Cole.

John Dempsey Christening



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