Northwest port pioneers.

Position:Barge operators Crowley Maritime Corp., Foss Maritime Co. and Samson Tug & Barge

Three barge companies help supply Alaska while maintaining a rich maritime history.

Pacific Northwest shipping companies have traditionally gone north to Alaska, boosting the growth of the economy with delivery of everything from groceries to the gas-handling expansion project at Prudhoe Bay.

And three in particular, Crowley Maritime Corp., Foss Maritime Co. and Samson Tug & Barge, have played a key role in development of Alaska.

Crowley Maritime, which operates one of the world's largest fleets of tug and barge equipment, marked its 25th and final sealift voyage to the North Slope in 1994 with delivery of modules for phase two of the gas handling expansion project in Prudhoe Bay oil fields.

For the 1994 sealift, Crowley transported 14 production modules weighing some 23,000 tons to boost oil and gas production for Arco Alaska.

Foss Maritime, which offers a complete range of harbor tug and barge services, ocean transport, vessel repair and environmental services, has operations from northwest Alaska to San Diego, Calif., including the Columbia/Snake River system.

In 1994, Foss introduced tractor tugs based on the German-designed Voith-Schneider Cycloidal Propulsion System, state-of-the-art equipment already enhancing its business in Puget Sound.

The vessels, hailed as a major safeguard against oil spills, were contracted from Foss by Arco Marine Inc. and British Petroleum to escort and assist oil tankers in northern Puget Sound. While designed for tanker escort and as assist tugs, both vessels also may serve in fighting fires on the waterfront or on water, and for emergency-assistance towing.

Samson Tug & Barge, another tug and barge firm with a lengthy history of service to the Pacific Northwest, introduced southbound reefer service from Sitka in 1994 and hopes to develop that area further this year.

This service is in addition to the firm's container cargo shipments and service along the Alaskan coast, with connections to the state's Interior, the continental United States, Europe and Asia.

Northwest Beginnings

All three of these now prominent tug and barge firms started from humble beginnings, with the waters of the Pacific Northwest as their turf. Today their operations in the Pacific Northwest continue to grow to meet demands of the shipping industry.

Historically the growth of maritime communities along the coast of the Pacific Northwest has been tied to its ports and the business they attract. Crowley Maritime, Foss and Samson have...

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