Following the destruction of Hurricane Dorian, Port Tampa Bay came together with various partners at Port St. Pete to provide relief efforts for individuals suffering in the Bahamas. The project evolved in a matter of days as Port Tampa Bay President and CEO Paul Anderson quickly connected with David Wirth, Municipal Marina and Port St. Pete Manager, as well as various partners and maritime family organizations to coordinate the effort.
Anderson stated, “I was taking time off fishing when I texted my friend and our port chairman, Steve Swindal. I learned that he had piloted his plane with supplies to the Bahamas and just knew that we also had an opportunity to help.” Anderson called Good Samaritan Shipping Ministries (GSSM), which owns and operates the vessel “Glory,” a 142′ supply boat with a capacity of up to 250 tons. “Glory” was last in Tampa in 2018, after gathering supplies to send to Puerto Rico following the damage inflicted by Hurricane Maria and, at that time, Anderson had offered them free dockage at Port Tampa Bay. This time, Wirth was able to offer space at Port St. Pete.
The generosity and collaboration of a number of organizations propelled this effort forward. Landstar Systems donated eight containers, AA American Containers provided certification for the containers, and Sims Crane & Equipment supplied the crane to load the containers aboard “Glory.” Within a week, the vessel departed Port St. Pete for Freeport, Bahamas carrying the eight containers totaling 113,500 pounds of medical supplies and dry good necessities. Items donated and shipped included batteries, tarps, hygiene products, first aid kits, diapers, water filtration systems, work gloves, extension cords, and more.
During this time, Sol Relief Aviation, a non-profit disaster relief group based out of Albert Whitted Airport right across the street from Port St. Pete, was also assisting by making up to six trips a day out to the Bahamas with the help of over 70 volunteer pilots. Additionally, the JJ Lyon Guard Foundation, a non-profit organization specializing in disaster relief, played a key role in the organization and coordination of these efforts.
“Glory” is piloted by Shawna and James Downs, along with their children, who travel around the world to help those in need. With a shallow draft, “Glory” is able to maneuver its way into small ports and private docks, reaching areas that are often the hardest to access. The boat has the ability to carry up to eight volunteers and has an impressive fuel range.
For more information about Good Samaritan Shipping Ministries or to make donations, visit www.gssmi.org.