In Memoriam: Captain Peter S. Smith
Industry Mourns Passing of Longtime Ship Master and Instructor
Captain Peter S. Smith, a 50-year member of the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots, passed away on April 3, 2016. He retired in 2008 from Horizon Lines as a Senior Master, a rank equivalent to Commodore, and shortly thereafter joined the faculty of the Maritime Institute of Technology & Graduate Studies (MITAGS).
Smith graduated from Maine Maritime Academy in 1964 and sailed with States Marine Lines until 1971, attaining the rank of Chief Mate. In those days celestial and solar sightings were routinely used to determine a ship’s position as GPS systems were not yet in use, and Smith was an expert at both. He also grew his skills in cargo stowage, ship stability and the management of deck personnel while also serving as the ship’s medical officer.
States Marine Lines went out of business in 1971, and Smith joined States Steamship Company as Chief Mate on its demanding West Coast to Southeast Asia service. He became an expert in stowage and the discharge of breakbulk cargoes and in 1974 left States Steamship because he did not agree with the construction of their breakbulk-ro/ro vessels, which he deemed impractical for the trans-Pacific trade.
He then signed on with SeaLand at the height of the container revolution and sailed as Chief Mate on its SL-7 Class ships. These 1,000-foot container vessels were very fast and required a tremendous amount of knowledge about stability due to the number of containerized cargoes onboard. By 1980 Smith was promoted to Master on smaller ships in the SeaLand fleet. Eight years later he was in command of the largest ships in the SeaLand fleet.
In 1995 SeaLand was sold and became CSX Lines and, in 1999, the company was sold again and renamed Horizon Lines, LLC. It was an exciting and tumultuous time, and Smith sailed as Master on some of the company’s most prestigious routes and ships.
In 2008 Smith joined the faculty of MITAGS in Linthicum Heights, MD as an Instructor in Shiphandling and Bridge Resource Management, Emergency Shiphandling, Basic and Advanced Shiphandling, and Navigational Skills Assessment.
“Peter was an amazing instructor and always willing to help,” said Eric Friend, MITAGS’ Director of Training. “His patience was legendary, and I never witnessed him upset with students who didn’t get the concepts of his instruction. He wanted mariners coming up through the ranks to have the best opportunity for success, and he was tireless with his time and gladly shared his knowledge of shiphandling. He will be remembered for the scale of his contributions to the maritime industry.”
The Maine Maritime Academy has established a Memorial Fund in the name of Captain Peter S. Smith. Donations can be made via telephone at (207) 326-2470 or mailed to Maine Maritime Academy, Development Office, Pleasant Street, Castine, Maine 04420. Please mention “In Loving Memory of Captain Peter S. Smith.”
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.