When mariners need logistics assistance on the Eastern Seaboard, their first call is to Cape Henry Launch Service (CHLS), a full-service 24 hour launch and tug provider based in Hampton Roads VA. Maryland Nautical Sales and Davis Ship Service are very pleased to work with CHLS in Maryland, where the three companies provide support to ships at the Dominion Energy Cove Point LNG terminal.
Gary and Shirley Bradford founded CHLS in 1996 to provide waterborne logistics service to ships anchored in Hampton Roads. Gary, whose credentials include 100GT Master of Self-Propelled Vessels and Master of Towing Vessels, was serving as Virginia Pilot boat captain when we recognized a need for a professional crew launch service in the area. Gary and his wife Shirley undertook this new enterprise together - Gary as Captain and business coordinator, and Shirley as Deckhand, safety officer and bookkeeper. This “mom and pop” team successfully handled the myriad aspects that small business involves, as well as the technical and physical demands of the mission itself.
The business has evolved, and the Bradfords now employ over a dozen people to service commercial ships in both Virginia and Maryland. Crew transport is their core service, and their expanded launch fleet operates from five locations in the Hampton Roads Virginia area, and four locations in Maryland. Additionally, CHLS’ fleet includes tugs and barges for deck cargo, provisions, potable water and ship’s sewage services. Cranes and forklifts complement the fleet.
CHLS mission and services have also diversified to include towing, buoy maintenance, dredging and research support, and safety standby.
Gary notes that he’s worked with Maryland Nautical Sales for over 7 years. On one hand, CHLS is a client. Gary buys charts, barge lights, etc. for his own fleet using MNS’ convenient online services, so he doesn’t have to dispatch an employee to the Baltimore store. Secondly, CHLS frequently delivers charts and publications to ships at anchor, which the ships have ordered from MNS.
CHLS is more directly connected with Davis Ship Service. Ships loading/offloading at the Cove Point LNG terminal contract independently with both Davis and CHLS, and the two companies work together to ensure coordinated services. With 6-8 ships per month operating at the recently opened export terminal, everyone is kept pretty busy. Gary comments that the synergistic relationship between CHLS and Davis is critical to providing seamless support.
CHLS maintains four vessels on the Patuxent River for the Cove Point and Mid-Chesapeake operations. Cape Provider and Diamond are cargo and passenger vessels, respectively – but each has capacity for both services and provides a double back-up system. Shawn Alan (named for the Bradford’s eldest son) is a smaller service launch used as a safety vessel during critical operations. Tug Miss Shirley rounds out the Patuxent River fleet.
Gary also maintains a strong relationship with the Dominion Energy Cove Point Terminal itself, for whom CHLS provides numerous services. Gary enjoys working with Dominion; he remarks that the Dominion Management leads by inspiration, bringing out the best in their employees and contractors. Security personnel are professional and competent, which fosters mutual respect between security and crews. He’s able to watch deck offers advance through the ranks, knows many by name, and has friends on every ship. Gary comments “Overall, it’s a really great work experience.”
Gary Bradford loves his family, and loves his job. Two of the Bradford sons (Shawn and Tyler) are in the transportation industry, and daughter McKenna is a senior at St Mary’s College. Gary is able to work with Shirley, his wife and best friend. He’s also able to maintain thriving relationships with diverse companies ashore and afloat. What more could you ask?
Maryland Nautical Sales and Davis Ship Service are proud to be associated with the Bradfords and Cape Henry Launch Services, and hope to work together for years to come.