SURVEYOR'S NOTEBOOK

SS Sea Witch & SS Esso Brussels (TBT)

By Hannah van Hemmen

Harry Ottaway, past President of Martin & Ottaway, getting his balance on the SS SEA WITCH in drydock (stern section), August 2, 1979.

The SS SEA WITCH was a container ship which lost steering control while leaving New York harbor and collided with the fully loaded tanker SS ESSO BRUSSELS on the night of May 30, 1973.  An article on the collision from the May 1976 issue of the USCG Proceedings can be found here.

The SEA WITCH wreck sat idle for years after the collision, and eventually portions of the vessel were salvaged and built into the CHEMICAL DISCOVERER, which now sails as the CHEMICAL PIONEER.  We attended on board while the vessel was in drydock in 1979, after dock blocks collapsed (hence the heavy list).

Here’s a photo of the collision and resulting fire as the ships passed under the Verrazzano Bridge, from the Associated Press Photos Archive (Image no. 730602031):

Smoke rises from a collision between the U.S. container ship Sea Witch and the ESSO Brussels, in New York harbor near the Verrazano bridge in New York, June 2, 1973. The Sea Witch continues to smolder and list more than 20 degrees as fireboats and tugs continue emergency operations. (AP Photo)