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A Brief History of McAllister Towing

McALLISTER TOWING is one of the oldest and largest family-owned marine towing and transportation companies in the United States. Founded by Captain James McAllister in 1864 with a single sail lighter, the company has served the maritime community continuously, earning a reputation for unsurpassed excellence. Today, the company operates a balanced and extensive fleet of tugs, barges, and ferries in the major ports on the U.S. East Coast and in Puerto Rico. Captain Brian A. McAllister is the President and a great-grandson of the founder, representing the fourth generation of McAllisters at the helm. Five McAllisters of the fifth generation are also employed by the company.

Captain James McAllister started the first McAllister enterprise shortly after he arrived from Cushendall, County Antrim, Ireland . Together with his brothers and in-laws, McAllister formed the Greenpoint Lighterage Company. They augmented the lighterage business with towing, with the acquisition of their first steam tug, the R.W. BURKE, in the 1880's, while the Brooklyn Bridge was still being built.

The early 20th Century was a period of innovation and expansion. Captain James was one of the first to convert a sail lighter into a bulk oil carrier, for the transport of oil around New York Harbor. The company also became known nationally for its salvage work, which extended from the West Indies, along the Atlantic Coast as far north as Maine.

In 1909, the company acquired the Starin Fleet of steamboat excursion vessels, forming the McAllister Steamboat Company, which was then among the largest excursion boat operators in New York, with regular runs to the Statue of Liberty, Bear Mountain, Coney Island, and Long Island.

After the death of Captain James in 1916, his four sons assumed control of the company. The new partnership consisted of James (Captain Jim), John E., Charles D. and William H., the second generation of McAllisters.

By 1918, the company had moved into the ocean towing business. McAllister inaugurated one of the first deep-sea tug-barge combinations with the 156-foot long tugboat,C.W. MORSE, carrying molasses from Cuba to New Orleans. Always an innovator, in 1927 McAllister installed a 375 h.p. diesel engine into the DANIEL McALLISTER, making it the first diesel powered tug in New York Harbor.

During the First World War, Captain Jim served with honor on the Board of Embarkation for the U.S. Government. He also held the post of Acting Director for the Army's floating equipment. Between the Wars, a fleet of 27 ocean-going tankers was operated by McAllister to all parts of the world for the U.S. Shipping Board.

With the death of Captain Jim in 1936, the third generation of McAllisters took the helm. Anthony, James, and Gerard McAllister are credited not only with pulling the company through the difficult Depression years, but also bringing the company to its present-day prominence. During the 1940's and 50's, the company expanded to include operations in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Canada.

Today, those operations have expanded to include offices in Portland ME, Baltimore MD, Wilmington NC, Georgetown SC, Charleston SC, Jacksonville FL, Port Everglades, FL and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

In recent times McAllister helped pioneer the development of the Kort Nozzle, Flanking Rudder tugs that dominated the 1960's and 70's. In the 1980's and 1990's McAllister continued to modernize its fleet of tugs by building Z-drive tractor tugs with the latest firefighting equipment and capabilities. McAllister's fleet consists of over 70 tugboats including 24 tractor tugs.

McAllister also owns and operates the Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company, established in 1883, that presently runs three passenger-car ferries, the GRAND REPUBLIC, PARK CITY, and P.T. BARNUM, each capable of carrying 1,000 passengers and 100 automobiles, between Bridgeport CT, and Port Jefferson NY.