Tugboat Tycoon

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Most everyone knows one fact about tugboats: a good tugboat man can hurl a torrid phrase across the water hard enough to make it bounce. But few know another important fact: that the Dutch had a virtual monopoly before the war on deep-sea towing.

Last week, Edmond Joseph Moran, a small (5 ft. 6 in.) man who looks more like a drapery salesman than the boss of the world's biggest tugboat company, prepared to poke the snubbed noses of two 194-ft. tugs into the Dutchmen's private pond.

His Moran Towing & Transportation Co., Inc. chartered the powerful, war-built tugs from the U.S. Maritime Commission, will use them to pull two tin-mining dredges from Miami through the Panama Canal to the Netherlands Indies for the Netherlands Government. To shrewd President Moran, the job is more than a pay haul across the Pacific. It will give him a chance to gauge his financial chances of beating the Dutch at their own game, at their expense, before the Dutch and British get their deep-sea tugs operating again, full steam.

Tough Breed. Moran is well aware that U.S. tugboats have two heavy loads to carry: 1) high wages and 2) insurance rates, which are controlled by the British to favor their own and Dutch boats.

But if any U.S. tugboater can pull apart the monopoly, the Morans can. The 86-year-old firm was founded in New York by Mike Moran, Ed's grandpa, as big and rugged as Ed is small and quiet. But it was Mike's son, Eugene F. Moran, 75, chairman of the board and Ed's uncle, who chugged the company into big business. An elegant dresser who shocked tugboaters by carrying a cane, he boasted that his tugs could tow anything anywhere. Said he: "Those big ones of ours could pull the Statue of Liberty down to the South Pole and back."

While Eugene was at the wheel, the company's gross had risen from $125,000 a year to $8,000,000. In the last year, Eugene has taken things easy. He has let Ed, president since 1937, take over completely the operation of Moran's 31 tugs. It also has eight under charter, and operates twelve 194-ft. ocean-going tugs for the Government. It has contracts to dock most of the big liners, including the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth.

Tough Jobs. But it was during the war that the Moran Co., which operated 122 tugs for the Government, performed its most notable feats. While the company towed dredges and drydocks around the globe and brought home disabled merchantmen and battleships, Ed Moran went into the Navy as a lieutenant commander in 1942. He came out a rear admiral in November 1945 with a chestfull of decorations and a worldwide reputation.

As boss of the War Shipping Administration's small vessels, he ran a fleet of hundreds of tugs, including those of private companies such as his own. His most brilliant feat was Operation Mulberry. The British had constructed two floating harbors, each the size of Dover. The 150 huge concrete caissons and 60 blunt-nosed ships (which formed the breakwater) were to be anchored off the Normandy beaches. But the problem of towing them across got so snarled up that Ed Moran was finally called in to straighten it out, was put in charge of the whole operation.

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