Photo by Shane Harms
Hundreds celebrate Foss Maritime's 125th anniversary.

After 125 years Foss Maritime looks to the future

This year Foss Maritime celebrates its 125th anniversary after starting with single rowboat in Tacoma and evolving into one of the leading marine transportation and harbor service companies in the world.

Thursday, June 5, hundreds of attendees celebrated the anniversary at the Bell Harbor Conference Center (2211 Alaskan Way) at Pier 66. Food, drink and revelry were abundant amid 125 years worth of etching out a living in the seas of thePacific Northwest. Foss Maritime president and CEO, Paul Stevens, said the event was truly a family affair with much of his family in attendance.

During the program Stevens presented Co-President of Port of Seattle Commission, Stephanie Bowman, with a new Foss Anniversary book to commemorate years of Foss Maritime working in stride with the Portof Seattle. The book is a collection of historical photos and stories revealing the company's rich maritime history and current activities.

Bowman commented on Foss’s role in representing the regions maritime history and the future.

“It really is critical, the fabric that Foss places, not only for our maritime heritage in Seattle, but more importantly the future of the maritime community,” said Bowman

Commenting on the evolution of Foss Maritime, Stevens said, “Foss for years was very much a regional corporation, and today we have global operations.”

“As we speak we have an asset in the Middle East; we participated in the Gulf War; we have assets that are in Mexico; so we are far different from where we were in the beginning,“ said Stevens.

“People have changed. Our breadth and scope have changed. The technology of the boats has changed. … Have you been on some these new boats compared to old boats? The wheel is gone. It looks like a video game today. All the hand eye coordination and the power of the boat -- all of that has revolutionized the business.”

Founder of the company, Thea Foss, made her start in Tacoma, Wash. in 1889 by doing simple repairs to a rowboat and painting the boat the characteristic Foss green and white. She began renting the boat out to make extra money. Her husband, Andrew, a carpenter, began building rowboats and not long after that the company was into towboats pulling logs under the name Foss Launch and Tug Company. Spurred by World War I, the company was able to branch out to the tug industry in Seattle.

Now Foss operates over 130 vessels and employs 1,500 people, serving customers around the world. Although Saltchuk Resources, Inc., bought Foss Maritime in 1987, Foss continues to operate independently and remains a family run business, but remains part of a larger worldwide network.

In the tradition of Thea and Andrew Foss, Foss Maritime continues to evolve and change with the emerging markets, expanding its services and client base. Currently, they are looking at Alaska and the Arctic as a potential area for growth. Foss has already established projects with major oil companies in the past few years as new energy resources emerge. Furthermore, Foss is steadfast constructing three Arctic-class tugs at the Rainier Shipyard.

"We have great and strong traditions here at Foss, and the hard work and creative thinking of our employees has propelled us to where we are today,"

In addition to expanding a new customer and service base, Foss has been busy to say the least. A major project completed recently is the new Sanpoil ferry constructed under the partnership with the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and Washington State. The ferry is a 20-car aluminum-hulled vessel with advanced technology for greener fuel efficiency.

In addition Foss completed a pilot boat Connor that replaced the aging Arrow 2 on the Columbia River at Astoria, Ore. The Connor has better energy efficiency and newer technology for a safer more efficient vessel.

Furthermore, the Foss Seattle shipyard is currently constructing two fireboats that will lead the industry in the latest technology. The first has already been christened and construction of the second has begun at the Seattle location.

Their Seattle (Queen Anne/Ballard) shipyard has come a long way. They once only offered maintenance and repair work, but they expanded into new-vessel construction in early 2014, and their team consists of 265 employees, including welders, electricians, carpenters and other craftsmen.

There were reports of the Foss shipyard moving to Everett, but Stevens said, “We don’t know yet. We were looking at an opportunity in Everett but that’s slowed down a bit.”

“We were not looking to move the shipyards, it’s just that opportunities have come, and if the right opportunity comes along for our community, for employees and our customers then we’ll do something.”

Steven’s said he could not be more proud being a part of the ever-evolving Foss Maritime.

“Am I blessed or what? To be in charge of a company that’s 125 years old with the kind of people we have and working in this town every day – you know, somewhere along the line, someone touched my shoulder. “

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