If you smell French Fries off the coast of Kingsborough Community College, it’s not from the school’s cafeteria; it’s from the maritime technology department.
Equipped with cooking oil from the school’s culinary department, the ship, dubbed, “French Fry,” starts up in regular Diesel fuel and then switches to cooking oil. With the salty smell coming from the engine and emanating throughout the air during its sails, the name of the vessel is an appropriate one.
Maritime Faculty at KBCC came up with the idea of a green boat fueled by oil. This boat was donated to the college about five years ago, and have been used ever since by the students of Maritime Technology. Especially the ones that aspire to obtain Coast Guard License Captain, because they need 360 sea days from which this program provides them with 225. They use the boat to practice navigation.
Moreover, the students get to remodel vessels like French Fry. It gives them the opportunity to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary in real life situations. This ship is unique in many ways.
“I think is a great opportunity to work on a boat that is environmentally-friendly and that does not use fossil fuels,” Jameal Defreitas, a Maritime technology student said. “It is a privilege to be in school that provides such an opportunity for students, especially people with no experience to get some experience, actually to be in the water on a green boat.”
Another vital member of this department is Captain John Nappo, who is the Director of Maritime Technology. Since he was five-years-old, the seasoned sailor was capable of running a small boat owned by his family all over the Brooklyn Bay.
“Maritime Technology Department at KBCC is a two-year Associates Degree program where we train people to get jobs or to transfer into four years Marine Academy,” Captain Nappo said. “Most of the students that graduate here will either work on the ferries in New York Harbor, dinner boats, they work for the fire and police department. We have quite a few individuals who are deckhands and mates in the Staten Island Ferry. In addition, we send five to 10 students a year to SUNY Maritime, a college in the Bronx and the KBCC students are so well-trained that actually do very well when they are transferred there.”
One of the reasons why KBCC students are successful in this lucrative field is for the hands-on work. This is accomplished by means like French Fry, which is useful in more than one way. For example, French Fry is capable of saving the college roughly 1,000 dollars per year replacing fossil fuel with kitchen oil; otherwise, it will be 2,000 dollars.
“The engine, the propulsion unit that makes the boat go, can use any number of different fuels,” said Professor of Marine Engineering Conrad Kreuter. “The boat originally was made to run on diesel oil which is a standard oil we use in the marine industry for big engines, and this engine was converted to run on french fry oil coming from the cafeteria, which is an unusual fuel because you will not think that you can run a boat on kitchen oil.”
“The purpose of the French fry boat was to take the students out and go around Jamaica Bay and clean it up,” Gerald Kenna who is the College Lab Technician in the Maritime Department said. “So we are using an environmentally-friendly boat to do an environmentally friendly project.”
The boat is used to collect trash from the shore and what it is collected is then recycled or disposed of. The department isn’t satisfied with all these efforts though. They keep innovating, building more low-maintenance and low-cost vessels, with the ultimate intention of extending the dollar and be less harmful to our decadent planet.
“We are going to secure funding to create biodiesel which is a derivative of cooking oil and can be mixed with diesel fuel, so it is absolutely more efficient from a combustion standpoint than vegetable oil is,” Nappo said. “That is one thing we are working towards in the future.
“The other thing is that the college has now the hybrid power vessel that uses battery power and diesel generators to charge the batteries up, and we have that technology on campus now. We are trying to secure the fundings for a student project where we are going to convert one of our old training vessels in an electric powered boat that will run off batteries and solar power.”
Photos by Carolina Khanin