On the Crowley Maritime Corporation website is a statement by Thomas Crowley, Jr., the company’s Chairman and CEO: “In 1892, my grandfather, Thomas Crowley, bought a Whitehall rowboat and went into business for himself shuttling personnel and supplies between the San Francisco waterfront and the tall sailing ships that would anchor in San Francisco Bay. From these humble beginnings grew the company we know today as Crowley Maritime Corporation.”
The company’s describes itself as: “Crowley is a privately held, U.S.-owned and operated logistics, government, marine and energy solutions company headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida. Services are provided worldwide by four primary business units – Crowley Logistics, Crowley (Government) Solutions, Crowley Shipping and Crowley Fuels.”
Over the course of almost 130 years, the company has continually expanded geographically and into new lines of business. It now employs more than 6,300 employees worldwide and generates annual revenues of more than $2.5 billion.
According to the company website, Crowley “owns, operates and/or manages a fleet of more than 200 vessels.” The range of vessels is impressive: roll-on-roll-off (RO/RO) vessels; lift-on-lift-off (LO/LO) vessels; articulated tug-barges (ATBs); liquified natural gas (LNG)-powered container/roll-on, roll-off ships (ConRos); and multi-purpose tugboats and barges. In addition, the company has a variety of land-based facilities and equipment, including “port terminals, warehouses, tank farms, gas stations, office buildings, trucks, trailers, containers, chassis, cranes and other specialized vehicles.”
In 2008 Crowley Holdings Inc., the holding company for Crowley’s business lines and subsidiaries, was created. The company is owned by the Crowley family and the company’s employees.
The company has four key business lines, each of which provides a wide variety of services. They are profiled below.
A Crowley container vessel at dockside. (Photo: Crowley)
Crowley Logistics offers “single-source, full-cycle supply chain management solutions linking Central America, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and the U.S.”
Among the services that Crowley Logistics provides are: ocean shipping, land transportation, managed transportation, vehicle shipping, warehousing and cargo insurance. Specialized services include cold chain, oversized/NIT, Cuba Express and pack-and-ship. Among the key industries that Crowley Logistics serves are construction, perishables, automotive, healthcare, retail, hospitality and apparel.
An off-shore wind farm. (Photo: Crowley)
Crowley has been serving governmental departments and agencies throughout its history (“at home and abroad, in peacetime and war”). Among its clients are the U.S. Department of Defense and its U.S. Transportation Command, the Department of Homeland Security and other federal and state agencies.
Crowley Solutions provides a variety of services in the following broad categories: expeditionary logistics; supply chain solutions; maritime solutions; energy solutions; and technology solutions.
A Crowley tanker sails on. (Photo: Crowley)
Crowley Shipping offers a diverse range of solutions to its clients. The solutions “span: the design, construction management and operation of vessels; to ship assist and tanker escort services; to offshore energy installations and project management, to operating and managing petroleum tank vessels and global cargo ships.”
The company operates/manages the largest fleet of American-flagged petroleum and chemical tank vessels. Its fleet has a combined capacity of more than 12 million barrels.
Among the services this division of Crowley provides are: offshore energy services and project management; offshore wind; engineering services; deep-sea petroleum and chemical transportation; global ship management; vessel construction management; ship assist and tanker escort; and LNG services.
A Crowley tanker sails through Alaskan waters trailed by two tugboats. (Photo: Crowley)
The Crowley Fuels division is focused on Alaska. The company purchases, transports, stores and distributes the variety of fuels that Alaskans need to heat their homes, schools and businesses, fly their planes, and drive their cars, trucks, boats, snow machines and construction equipment. The company has been operating in the state since 1953.
Crowley has 18 petroleum terminals across Alaska that have a combined 76 million gallons of storage capacity. It has a diverse set of distribution channels – on land, over water and occasionally through the air and the company delivers fuel in more than 280 communities across the state.
An American success story fueled by hard work and ingenuity
There is an extensive timeline on the company’s website. While it does not give specific dates for most events, they are grouped in 10-year increments. Here are some highlights of the company’s history:
In an 18-foot rowboat, company founder Thomas Crowley provided transportation of personnel and supplies to ships anchored on San Francisco Bay.
As his business grew, Crowley bought additional vessels, including motor launch vessels and small barges, to service ships on San Francisco Bay.
Expanding further, Crowley added services such as bay towing and ship assist services to the continuing supply transport services.
The San Francisco earthquake occurred on April 18, 1906. Using the company’s fleet, Thomas Crowley and his employees ferried San Francisco residents away from the destruction.
Before fertilizers began to be formulated, nitrate was used extensively as a fertilizer. Crowley vessels carried loads of nitrate from South America to the U.S. In addition, Crowley vessels transported coal “for government operations.”
The Crowley fleet expanded with the addition of tugboats.
Further expansion occurred when a “marine railway, a dock and a woodworking mill were built.” The enterprise was named Crowley Shipyard.
A number of derrick barges and four steam-powered wooden tugs joined the fleet.
The Crowley fleet began to transport coal and other commodities to Australia and South America.
The company expanded its operations into Washington’s Puget Sound with lighter services (a lighter is a shallow-draft boat or barge used to unload [lighten] or load ships offshore). Crowley also established a tugboat service in San Pedro (the Port of Los Angeles) and expanded tug, launch and barge services in San Francisco Bay.
The Crowley shipyard built three water taxis.
The company’s fleet was converted from steam propulsion to diesel propulsion.
The company’s shipyard and its operation became a separate company.
Crowley began “dredging, marine construction, heavy-lifting and other derrick barge services in the Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Diego harbors.”
Barges for petroleum transport were designed to carry 7,000-, 9,000- and 11,000 barrels.
The company started passenger services between Treasure Island and the Golden Gate Bridge. Treasure Island is an artificial island in San Francisco Bay between San Francisco and Oakland. It was created in 1936-1937 of fill dredged from the bay for the Golden Gate International Exposition.
The company bought oil barging equipment from Shell to transport petroleum in the San Francisco Bay area and in southern California.
Crowley’s first sea-going oil barge was constructed.
The company transported the first load of bulk petroleum by barge from San Francisco to Coos Bay, Oregon.
All of the company’s remaining steam-powered tugboats were replaced by war-surplus diesel-powered equipment.
The company towed the U.S.S. Oklahoma battleship from Hawaii to Oakland, California. (The ship had been bombed at Pearl Harbor.)
Railcars loaded with bales of dissolving pulp were transported by Crowley via a 125-mile water link between railroad tracks in Ketchikan, Alaska, and Prince Rupert, British Columbia.
Crowley began its “long commitment to Arctic transportation” by resupplying the U.S. distant early warning (DEW) radar and communication system on the Alaska coastline.
Following the introduction of containerized shipping, Crowley began ongoing container transportation services between Alaska and the U.S. West Coast.
Crowley added four new steel container-carrying barges, five new tugboats, 600 containers and new terminal cranes to its fleet and docks.
The company carried out the first Arctic sealift of oil industry cargo around the perimeter of Alaska to Prudhoe Bay.
The company transported 187,000 tons of cargo to Prudhoe Bay. This was the “largest commercial sealift in maritime history.”
Crowley began passenger ferry services across the San Pedro Channel in Los Angeles.
The company expanded its oil industry support operations to Singapore. It also continued its services to Alaska; Crowley hauled additional pipe for the 800-mile pipeline that carries oil from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez.
Crowley began a weekly roll on/roll (RO/RO) cargo service between Miami and Jacksonville, Florida, and San Juan, Puerto Rico, as well as from the U.S. Gulf Coast to Puerto Rico. The world’s largest RO/RO barges were used; and Crowley became the largest RO/RO carrier in the Caribbean trade.
Crowley Maritime Corporation was formed.
A fleet of all-weather, all-terrain Rolligons (vehicles that use large, low-pressure, rubber air bags to cross unpacked snow, summer tundra, sand or marshland) were acquired. This was the beginning of the CATCO subsidiary.
Following its extensive services for the Aleyska Pipeline, the company chose Crowley to provide “vessel assist and tanker escort services in Valdez.”
Crowley added 25 Invader-class tugboats and nine 450-series petroleum barges to its fleet.
The company had new terminals built to handle “new triple-deck barges in Lake Charles, Louisiana and Petty’s Island near Philadelphia.”
Crowley had three cargo container ships built to serve Latin America.
Five triple-deck barges were altered; their length was increased from 400 feet to 730 feet, which increased the capacity of each barge by 78%.
The storage, transport and sale of petroleum products from tank farms began at Nome, Kotzebue and Captain’s Bay, Alaska.
On March 24, 1989, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Over the course of several days the ship leaked the equivalent of 257,000 barrels of oil into the Sound. Company tugs were first on the scene and Crowley was the principal contractor, providing equipment and personnel for marine support of the clean-up effort.
A Crowley tug (“Commander”) tows this floating facility. (Photo: Crowley)
Crowley chartered three RO/RO vessels, a tugboat and barge to the U.S. Military Sealift Command to support the United Nations’ various military transportation and supply services during the Persian Gulf Crisis.
Saudi Arabia hired Crowley as the prime contractor during the first phase of the clean-up of Persian Gulf shorelines that had suffered oil pollution.
On January 7, 1994 the Morris J. Berman, a single-hull 302-foot-long barge, hit a coral reef near San Juan, Puerto Rico. Approximately 750,000 gallons of heavy-grade oil were released into the ocean. Crowley played a major role in the clean-up effort.
“Thomas B. Crowley, Jr., was unanimously elected as Chairman of the Board, President and CEO following the passing of his father.”
A weekly “Gulf Express service” began. It linked Houston with Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia and Panama.
The company’s South America liner business and the name Crowley American Transport were sold. The company’s remaining liner business was renamed Crowley Liner Services, Inc.
“Two Prince William Sound-class tugs and three 140-foot, 10,000-horsepower Prevention and Response Tugs (PRTs)” were added to the Crowley fleet.
Crowley acquired Marine Transport Corporation. The U.S.-flagged petroleum and chemical tanker company became part of Crowley Petroleum Transportation.
The first licensed commercial cargo delivery directly from the U.S. to Havana, Cuba was made by Crowley. It was the first such delivery in nearly 40 years.
The company acquired Miami-based Speed Cargo Service and Apparel Transportation Inc. These businesses helped expand Crowley’s burgeoning logistics operations.
“Tom Crowley, Jr., was awarded the coveted AOTOS Mariners Award for his lifetime of dedication and commitment to the maritime industry.”
The company added Articulated Tug Barges (ATB) to its fleet; it also continued the buildout of 17 vessels grouped into three classes (550, 650 and 750).
With its extensive experience in the oil and natural gas industry, the company expanded into Sakhalin State, Russia.
Following its earlier delivery to Cuba, Crowley “transported the first shipments in more than 40 years of livestock (cows, sheep and bison) from the U.S. to Cuba.”
The company resumed ship assist and tanker escort services in San Francisco Bay.
“Crowley acquired Yukon Fuel Company, Northland Vessel Leasing Service Oil and Gas, Inc., and Columbus Distributing, Inc to expand its fuel distribution enterprise throughout Alaska; Titan Maritime, LLC., a marine salvage, wreck removal and emergency response company; Customized Brokers, a Miami-based company specializing in customs clearance, Seattle-based Jensen Maritime Consultants, a naval architecture and marine engineering firm and Houston-based Jarvis International Freight, Inc., a freight forwarding, export packing and logistics company primarily serving the energy, oilfield and mining industries.”
Crowley acquired the first of nine heavy-deck-strength 455 Series barges. These are used in deepwater offshore energy exploration and development. It also acquired its first two Ocean-class tugboats.
A devastating earthquake occurred on the island of Hispaniola (which is shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic) on January 12, 2010. More than 250,000 Haitians died from the earthquake and its after-effects. Over a period of several weeks, Crowley and TITAN Salvage reestablished cargo delivery to Port-au-Prince and helped to reopen the port to other government and commercial traffic.
The company’s fleet of CATCO® Arctic All-Terrain vehicles was sold.
The company invested $550 million to transform logistics services between the U.S. mainland and Puerto Rico. This included the construction of “two combination container/roll-on-roll-off (ConRo) ships powered by LNG, new terminal facilities and gantry cranes in San Juan, and terminal improvements in Jacksonville, including LNG bunkering infrastructure.”
“Two Ocean-Class tugs, four newly built, LNG-ready product tankers, two new 330,000-barrel tankers and the two new ConRos” were added to the Crowley fleet.
Crowley acquired “Anderes Oil, Taku Oil Sales and Ace Fuels in Alaska; and SeaFreight Line, SeaFreight Agencies and SeaPack in the Caribbean Basin.”
On January 13, 2012, the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia ran aground, capsized and later sank in shallow waters after striking an underwater rock formation off of Tuscany, Italy. The shipwreck resulted in 33 deaths (27 passengers, five crew members, and later, one member of the salvage team). “Titan, Jensen Maritime and partner Micoperi successfully removed the ship wreckage, which was the “largest maritime wreck removal project ever undertaken.”
Crowley subsidiary “Carib Energy, LLC received a 20-year, small-scale U.S. Department of Energy export license for the supply, transportation and distribution of U.S.-sourced LNG into Non-Free Trade Agreement nations in the Caribbean, Central and South America.”
Operation United Assistance was an effort to combat an outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. Crowley provided a range of logistics support services for the effort.
The company’s “government ship management group began providing technical management services for container ships, tankers, MSC marine prepositioning ships the ROCON fleet and the U.S. Navy’s T-AGOS/T-AGM fleet.”
“U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM), a command of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), awarded a $2.3 billion, multi-year contract award to Crowley Logistics, Inc., to provide transportation and related services supporting DOD activities in the U.S. and Canada.”
“In 2018, Crowley Alaska Tankers, LLC, a subsidiary, completed the acquisition of three tankers from SeaRiver Maritime Inc., and chartered them back to SeaRiver under varying multi-year terms. The tankers California and Washington have a capacity of 760,000 barrels and transport crude from Alaska to West Coast refineries. The tanker Oregon has a capacity of 342,000 barrels and transports refined petroleum between the U.S. Gulf and East Coast ports.”
The cover of a recent Crowley Connections Magazine. (Photo: Crowley)
As a privately held company, Crowley Maritime Corporation is not required to provide financial and other details of its business lines or the corporation as a whole. Therefore, much of this article is paraphrased or quoted from the company’s website.
When you consider how the company began, its success is astounding, and a testament to the company’s leadership and employees.