Cap'n Manny, Southern California Marine Exchange Executive Director, retires
- Wished Cap'n Manny, "Fair Winds and Following Seas," and thanked him for his service afloat and ashore.Going to invite him to come on board the Pacific Merchant Marine Council, NLUS.Phelps________________________________________________dailybreeze.comLAX to L. A. Harbor
Cap'n Manny setting sail for retirementArticle Launched: 03/29/2008 11:18:20 PM PDT
Walking the docks in Baltimore in the late 1940s - his German iCapt. Manny Aschemeyer, executive director of the Southern California Marine Exchange, retires on Monday. He played a key role in its development into a center that tracks all vessels entering and exiting the Port of Los Angeles. (Steve McCrank/Staff Photographer )
mmigrant father by his side - young Manny Aschemeyer discovered his life's calling.
"My father was a frustrated armchair sailor all his life," said Aschemeyer, 66.
By the time Aschemeyer turned 10, his father, who worked as a professional painter and decorator, had persuaded his young son to follow the dream.
Young Manny set his cap toward attending a maritime academy and going to sea.
"My family said I was brainwashed, but I wanted to be a merchant marine captain," he said.
And so began Aschemeyer's long dance with the sea, which after nearly 50years will come to a close on Monday when he officially retires from his 15-year post as executive director of the Southern California Marine Exchange in San Pedro.
Known simply as "Cap'n Manny" - he did, in fact, sail the seas as a ship captain, a milestone reached before his father died - Aschemeyer has become something of an institution among port personnel, shipping industry types and more than a few news reporters who count on his forthright answers and expertise about all things maritime.
"He's really in the know," said Port of Long Beach spokesman Art Wong, a former port reporter for the Long Beach Press-Telegram. "A lot of people come and go in this industry, but Manny's been around a lot of years. He knows all the players. If you want to know something about the industry, Manny is the one to talk to."
His sold-out retirement dinner last Thursday, with guests from several states, testified to Aschemeyer's popularity.
"People who have anything to do with the ports really owe him a great debt," said maritime journalist Michael D. White, referring to his leading role in developing the Marine Exchange. "He's a good man."
His "Manny-Grams," daily e-mail maritime news roundups, are legendary.
"When I send one out, the whole computer system" groans and comes to a near stop at the Marine Exchange, Aschemeyer joked.
From time to time, he has included a few personal notes for his wide-ranging readership, some of them reflecting his Christian faith. He sent out an urgent request for prayer, for example, a couple of years ago for his grandson who had been injured.
"Some people are sometimes taken aback, but I'm a pretty strong Christian. I share (my faith) openly, but if someone takes offense, I back off," said Aschemeyer, the father of three children (one died at age 33 in an accident in 1992). He also has 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Aschemeyer's long career began after he graduated in 1963 from the California Maritime Academy. He soon got his sea legs, in days when crew members had time to play cards on deck and bond as they weathered storms and other dangers at sea.
Cargo vessels carried about 8,000 tons of freight in those days, but held no cargo containers. It took days to unload the cargo and a crew of about 50 to maintain the ship.
Technology has changed much of that, with cargo containers carrying about 100,000 tons of cargo and automation cutting down on the need for so many crew members, who no longer have to perform so many of the hands-on tasks, such as navigation.
Crews also don't get the extended shore leaves they did in Aschemeyer's seafaring days. The former captain recalls going on a six-day safari in Kenya more than four decades ago.
Cargo is unloaded quickly, and ships in port are turned around and headed back out to sea within a day or two.
"Nowadays, those guys are prisoners on their ships," he said. "Some of them have told me they feel that the ship is running them. They're mechanical robots."
He volunteers some of his time today in helping the seamen's center in San Pedro, an organization that provides shuttles and other services for crew members during their short hours in port.
After Aschemeyer married in 1969, his career gravitated shoreside. He taught for a while at his alma mater and then worked in terminal operations.
But it was in 1993, when he took over operations at the Marine Exchange, that Aschemeyer said he found his true career niche.
"The Marine Exchange has been the best job of my career, so it's fitting to end my long career there," he said. "Everything else just prepared me for that."
When Aschemeyer and his associate, Dick McKenna, arrived, ships were still tracked using handwritten 3-by-5 index cards slotted in a revolving turnstile.
Today, the operation has expanded, becoming in essence what air traffic controllers are to airports.
"We boot-strapped that from a quiet, sleepy operation into a full-service vessel traffic center, entirely computerized," he said. The center tracks cargo globally and has become an integral link in the massive goods movement chain.
Since 9-11, port security has become an increasingly important part of what the Marine Exchange is called on to do.
And while Aschemeyer is stepping down - McKenna willtake over as executive director of the exchange - he won't exactly disappear right away.
He'll be coming in two to three days a week through December, as needed, to help in the transition, said Aschemeyer, who lives with his wife, Floy Ann, on a ranch in east San Diego County.
"It's been a good ride for me, folks, and I've had a challenging, exciting and rewarding career " Aschemeyer wrote in his farewell Manny-Gram last week. "God bless you all!!"
So no more Manny-Grams?
Not to worry.
They'll still be around, but in a different format. Look for them to reappear in the next month or so on a new "Manny Gram Blog Page" that will be launched as part of the Marine Exchange Web site - www.mxsocal.org.