Tucked away, yet surrounded by residential apartments sits a facility overlooking New York and New Jersey Harbor. The state-of-the-art building plays a key role in ensuring the safe navigation of everything from toys and hair products to vital fossil fuels used to power homes and businesses. Caven Point Marine Terminal, a key part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, is truly an impressive facility—particularly after being rebuilt from the ground up following Hurricane Sandy—however the true beauty of the place comes from the people working there day in and day out that makes it special.
“Seeing how this place runs, and all the people it takes to accomplish this unique mission is really amazing,” said Richard Thorsen, chief, Physical Support Branch, and onsite lead at Caven Point Marine Terminal.
Caven Point Marine Terminal is a part of the District’s Operations Division and is home to the operations support branch survey section, and metro area west construction division. Each with its own unique mission and challenges.
The facility is also home to the District’s fleet of drift collection vessels, which are charged with removal and disposal of up to 530,000 cubic feet of drift. Drift consists of various sizes of wood, pallets, tress, pilings, wreckage, plastics, Styrofoam, sea grass and tires. The vessels are used on a daily basis (one vessel works on each weekend day) to collect large floating drift that is a threat to the many deep-draft cargo carriers and petroleum tankers, as well as the growing number of high-speed passenger commuter ferries, cruise ships and recreational vessels. Removing drift and floatables each year results in the avoidance of approximately $27 million in damages each year.
With such a unique mission, someone may be wonder how someone may begin a career at Caven Point Marine Terminal.
“Well, it’s been a long road,” said Thorsen.
A graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, located in Kings Point, NY, Thorsen began his career 42 years ago working in the commercial maritime sector. Twenty years ago, Thorsen came to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, and worked as a project manager on the East River Bridges project. Following that position Thorsen moved on to become a Navigation program manager at North Atlantic Division.
“That’s where I started to get more involved with the Army Corps maritime and navigation work,” Thorsen remembers. “The dynamics of the job is what draws me to this role, we have to rise to challenges, juggle resources, all while keeping safety in mind. When it all comes together it feels like I’m conducting a symphony.”
Approximately 80 government employees and 15 contractors work throughout the facility. One of those individuals is Tony Lauria, the facility operations supervisor.
“When the boats leave the dock, they need the facilities to come back to,” explained Lauria.
Lauria and his team are responsible for the maintenance of Caven Point and the equipment inside. From receiving fuel, clearing snow, to vessel maintenance Lauria and his team make it happen.
Lauria began his career at Caven Point 38 years ago as a laborer. He worked his way up to junior mechanic and eventually senior mechanic and worked on the vessels he still serves today.
“I’ve learned a great deal, I’ve worked with amazing individuals and I’m well rounded,” said Lauria. “That’s what kept me motivated to come in, I was always a sponge learning new techniques, new systems and operations.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Lauria’s work never stopped.
“We can’t telework and keep this facility operational, we needed to be boots on the ground,” said Lauria.
The facility operations team kept everyone’s safety in mind and procured cleaning supplies, sanitizer and personal protective equipment so the mission wouldn’t falter during this unpresented time. Lauria explained his crews wellbeing was at the forefront of his mind throughout the pandemic.
“I would ask every day how everyone was doing, and made sure they were safe and taking care of themselves,” said Lauria. “I have a great crew working for me, we came into work and go the job done. They all make me look good, because they are motivated and dedicated to the mission.”
The timekeepers, the administrators, the people who clean and fix the facility may be in the background but they play key roles in ensuring the facility operates at peak condition, which has become more of an issue with the COVID pandemic still affecting day-to-day life explained Thorsen.
“When it comes time do something, whether it’s to go out and pick up a piece of drift, or there’s a plane crash or another harbor obstruction. To me the biggest satisfaction is watching all of that come together and making it happen.”