Arthur Eich, 77, captain of Bethlehem Steel carriers

September 20, 2001|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Arthur Eich, a retired Bethlehem Steel sea captain on company ore and coal carriers, died Saturday of heart failure at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. He was 77 and lived in Timonium.

He retired in 1982 as manager of Bethlehem Steel's vessel services department after 39 years with the company. He also held the title of port captain - senior officer of the company fleet. He was frequently called upon when one of the ships under his jurisdiction went aground and needed to be freed from shallow waters.

For many years the ships he captained hauled coal from Baltimore to the European ports of Antwerp, Belgium, and Rotterdam in the Netherlands, and returned with a load of iron ore picked up in Liberia. He also brought ore from Chile and Venezuela to Sparrows Point.

"He was strict and knew his job well. He was one of the best chief officers anyone could want," said Steven Moodie of Towson, a fellow retired captain and friend.

"He was an extremely competent seaman and was a very fair captain," said Robert S. Brown of Phoenix in Baltimore County, a retired Bethlehem captain. "He was respected and a master seaman when it came to running a ship."

Mr. Brown recalled that Mr. Eich was called to Venezuela when a 50,000-ton Bethlehem ore carrier went aground on the Orinoco River. With help from smaller ships, he freed the stranded vessel.

"The guy was incredible when it came to handling ships," Mr. Brown said.

During a tugboat strike in the Baltimore harbor, Mr. Eich devised a way to dock Bethlehem ships using winches and wires. He also supervised the operation of a pair of Gulf Oil Co. supertankers - the Venoil and Venpet, which sailed from the Persian Gulf to Nova Scotia.

Born in Woodside, N.Y., he was a graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, N.Y.

In the merchant marine during World War II, he served aboard a vessel that brought men and supplies to beachheads in Italy.

He is survived by his wife of 53 years, the former Carolyn Jennings; a son, Arthur Eich of Perry Hall; two daughters, Susan Eich and Deborah Bakalich, both of Cockeysville; a sister, Lydia Barter of Inverness, Fla.; and two grandchildren.

Services were held yesterday.

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