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Harbor Fuels thrives on refueling some of the most luxurious mega-yachts

June 2, 2014
AMONG refueling service providers, Harbor Fuels handles a truly elite clientele.

AMONG refueling service providers, Harbor Fuels handles a truly elite clientele. Specifically, the Boston, Massachusetts, company provides at-the-dock refueling for some of the most luxurious mega-yachts afloat.

Harbor Fuels works under contract with Boston Yacht Haven, where many of these luxury vessels can be found. The facility is probably best described on Boston Yacht Haven’s web site: “This is a place where luxury floats in the air. Where mega-yachts sit majestically in an exclusive 100-slip marina. Where newly renovated deluxe guest suites indulge in every way. And where the surroundings are a unique blend of beauty and history and a shimmering urban landscape. This is Boston Yacht Haven.”

The facility’s reputation is such that in May 2013 Yankee Magazine gave it its 2013 Editors’ Choice Award for “Best Lodging in Greater Boston” (and when was the last time something named “Yankee” had something nice to say about Boston?), saying, “this luxury lodging offers harbor views, spacious suites decorated in nautical style and a host of shared amenities….”

Carrying 10,000 gallons of diesel, the Harbor Fuel 1 fueling barge serves a wide range of customers in Boston Harbor, including some of the most luxurious mega-yachts, ferries, and other commercial boats. The fuel barge has been in operation since 2012. Harbor Fuels has built its reputation on providing safe, reliable fuel-transfer operations for vessels that traverse Boston Harbor.

“This is a first-class facility with first-class amenities that caters to a first-class clientele,” says Kevin Lussier, general manager of the Boston Yacht Haven. “As such, we know we have to provide first-class service in every instance.”

Barge deliveries

To meet the needs of Boston Yacht Haven’s clientele, Harbor Fuels specializes in delivering marine diesel through high-speed, in-slip fueling for a wide array of vessel types and gallonage requirements. Fueling services are performed by a fleet of barges that carry the fuel to where it is needed and then transfer it into the vessel’s fuel tanks.

“A typical day with Harbor Fuels starts at about 5:30 in the morning,” says Jackie Gilman, captain of the Harbor Fuel 1 fueling barge, which was put into service in June 2012. “We’re a mobile unit so we can go in and out of any destination we need. We fuel all ferries, commercial boats, and private yachts with anywhere from 100 gallons a day to 100,000 gallons a week.

“The time needed for fueling depends on the gallon amount. If the customer needs 100 to 500 gallons, we can do it in five to 10 minutes tops. A maximum amount off the barge would be 10,000 gallons, and it would take an hour-and-a-half at the agreed-upon gallon-per-minute rate.”

Harbor Fuel 1 Captain Jackie Gilman, center, and Boston Yacht Haven General Manager Kevin Lussier, right, have seen their fueling operations optimized with the use of Blackmer sliding vane pumps, which were recommended by Mike Trask, left, Hall Trask Equipment Co, a longtime Blackmer distributor.

As with any fueling operation, strict regulations and safety measures must be followed in order to ensure that all barge personnel, clients, and the environment are protected from harm during the fueling process.

“When we’re fueling a yacht we can come right alongside, make sure we are 100% secure and prepare for the fueling operation, whatever the gallon amount is,” says Gilman, who calls herself the ‘fuel-barge lady.’ “We do the paperwork, make sure we have good communication, and activate the pump with an electronic key card. Our computer is very smart in that it remembers every customer, the name, size of the boat, the gallons, everything.”

Reliable pumps

While the goal of Harbor Fuels is safe, efficient, reliable delivery of fuel where and when it is needed, that would not be possible if the delivery barges did not incorporate the best pumping equipment. In the search for the ideal pumps for its fueling applications, Harbor Fuels turned to Hall Trask Equipment Company, a longtime supplier of pumping technology from Blackmer.

Hall Trask Equipment is a third-generation supplier of pumps, valves, meters and tank equipment for use in industrial fluid-transfer and transport applications in New England.

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“We supplied Blackmer sliding vane pumps for this Harbor Fuels barge that was commissioned in 2012 for high-flow-rate filling of vessels throughout the harbor,” says Mike Trask of Hall Trask Equipment, who, along with his brothers, Paul, and Billy, is following in the footsteps of his grandfather and father in the family business.

Harbor Fuel 1 needed product pumps with very low maintenance and high output. Specifically, Harbor Fuel 1 is outfitted with a 2-½-inch GX Series pump that can deliver high-capacity flow rates up to 121 gallons per minute (461 L/min) and a two-inch X Series model that delivers 70 gpm (264 L/min) at lower speeds. Each pump also features variable-speed control, which increases the safety of the fuel-transfer process no matter the flow rate.

“We generally hook up the high-speed pump to a larger vessel when we’re fueling a larger volume, so with deliveries from 500 to 1,000 gallons and higher, we’re going to use the high-capacity versus low-capacity pump,” Gilman says. “This is best for deliveries of around 400 gallons at a rate of about 60 gallons per minute.

“When we’re out fueling, safety is always number one, followed by performance. I feel safe when I’m out there because the Blackmer pumps are trustworthy, and the performance has been 100%. Every single delivery has been outstanding, the numbers are right on, the pressure is right on, the gauges are right on. The pump quietness contributes to a nice, soothing, perfect delivery process.

“Usually the higher flow rate, like 125 to 130 gpm, the pump’s going to be louder, but the faster the volume coming through the Blackmer pump, down the pipe, through the hose, and into the boat is really very quiet.”

In order for the Boston Yacht Haven to deliver the ultimate service experience for its clients, a lot of disparate parts need to work in perfect harmony. “Boston Yacht Haven clients rightfully expect a best-in-class experience every time and that’s what we strive to provide them every day,” said Lussier. “That means that we can’t compromise on the quality, performance, and reliability of any aspect of our operation.”

That level of reliable performance also means that after more than a year of captaining Harbor Fuel 1 and working with the Blackmer pumps, Gilman “harbors” no fears that the Boston Yacht Haven fueling process will continue to be nothing less than an idyllic operation.        ♦