Crowley Company History
A Message from Tom Crowley, 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. By taking a look back over these many years, we can better appreciate the work, sacrifice, and entrepreneurial spirit of those who came before us.
1892 – 1902
Founder Thomas Crowley purchased one 18-foot Whitehall boat to provide transportation of personnel and supplies to ships anchored on San Francisco Bay.
Crowley purchased additional vessels including motor and gasoline launch vessels, and small barges
Within a few years, services broadened to include bay towing and ship assist services along with supply transport services for ships in the Bay.
1903 – 1913
Crowley’s fleet played a significant role in ferrying passengers and their belongings out of San Francisco following the great earthquake.
Crowley vessels transported nitrate from South America and coal transport for government operations.
Tugboats added to the fleet
A marine railway, a dock and a woodworking mill were built and named Crowley Shipyard.
1914 – 1924
Several derrick barges and four wooden tugs (with steam engines) were added to the fleet
Transport of coal and other commodities began to Australia and South America
Crowley expanded into Puget Sound with lighter services, established a tugboat service in San Pedro and provided tug, launch and barge services in San Francisco Bay
1925 – 1935
Three water taxis were constructed.
The entire vessel fleet underwent conversion from steam to diesel.
Crowley’s shipyard operation became a separate company
1936 – 1946
The company began dredging, marine construction, heavy-lifting and other derrick barge services in the Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Diego harbors.
Seven, nine and 11,000 bbl. barges were designed for petroleum transport.
Passenger services began between Treasure Island and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Oil barging equipment was purchased from Shell Oil for petroleum transport in both the Bay Area and Southern California.
Ships were built in-house for the government in support of World War II.
Crowley began to build and operate petroleum terminals to improve the efficiency of petroleum distribution.
1947 – 1957
The company’s first sea-going oil barge was built.
Crowley transported the first load of bulk petroleum by barge from San Francisco to Coos Bay, Oregon.
After the war, the company replaced all of its surviving steam tugs with war surplus diesel equipment.
The company towed the Oklahoma from Hawaii to Oakland after it was bombed at Pearl Harbor.
Crowley pioneered transportation of railcars loaded with bails of dissolving pulp on a 125-mile water link between railroad tracks in Ketchikan, Alaska, and Prince Rupert, British Columbia.
Crowley initiated its long commitment to arctic transportation with an agreement to resupply the U.S. Government’s distant early warning radar and communication system on the Alaska coastline.
1958 – 1968
Regular container transportation services between Alaska and the lower 48 began.
Four new steel barges capable of carrying 300 containers were introduced to the fleet along five new tugs, 600 containers and new terminal cranes.
Oil industry officials called on Crowley for the first Arctic sealift of oil industry cargo around the perimeter of Alaska to Prudhoe Bay.
1969 – 1979
Crowley’s transport of 187,000 tons of cargo to Prudhoe Bay was the largest commercial sealift in maritime history.
Passenger ferry services across the San Pedro channel began.
Oil industry support operations expanded to Singapore and continued in Alaska as the company hauled more pipe for the 800-mile pipeline
A weekly roll on/roll (RO/RO) off cargo service was initiated between Miami and Jacksonville, Florida, and San Juan, Puerto Rico, and from the U.S. Gulf to Puerto Rico utilizing the world’s largest RO/RO barges, propelling Crowley to become the largest RO/RO carrier in the Caribbean trade.
Crowley Maritime Corporation was formed.
Crowley acquired a fleet of all-weather, all-terrain Rolligons, vehicles that use large, low-pressure, rubber air bags to traverse unpacked snow, summer tundra, sand or marshland initiating the birth of CATCO.
Aleyska selected Crowley to provide vessel assist and tanker escort services in Valdez.
25 Invader-class tugs and nine 450-series petroleum barges were added to the fleet.
1980 – 1990
New terminals were constructed to handle the new triple-deck barges in Lake Charles, Louisiana and Petty’s Island near Philadelphia.
Three cargo container ships were built to serve the Latin America trade including South America.
Five of the triple deck barges were stretched from 400-feet to 730-feet, increasing the capacity of each by 78 percent.
Crowley began storing, transporting and selling petroleum products from tank farms at Nome, Kotzebue and Captain’s Bay.
Crowley tugs were first on the scene of the Exxon Valdez grounding and the company was the principle contractor of equipment and personnel to provide marine support for the spill cleanup.
1991 – 2001
During the Persian Gulf Crisis, Crowley chartered three RO/RO vessels and a tug and barge to the U.S. Military Sealift Command in support of the United Nations’ various military transportation and supply services.
Crowley was the prime contractor for the Saudi Arabian Government in the first phase of an environmental cleanup of oil-polluted shores in the Persian Gulf.
Crowley played a leading role in the cleanup of the barge Morris J. Berman’s major oil spill off the beaches of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Thomas B. Crowley, Jr., was unanimously elected as Chairman of the Board, President and CEO following the passing of his father.
To provide emergency services under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, two joint ventures Marine Response Alliance and Clean Pacific were formed.
A new, weekly Gulf Express service linking Houston with Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia and Panama was launched.
Crowley sold its South America liner business and the name Crowley American Transport. The 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) joined the fleet.
Marine Transport Corporation, a U.S.-flag petroleum and chemical tanker company, was acquired and folded into Crowley Petroleum Transportation.
Crowley made the first licensed commercial cargo delivery directly from the United States to Havana, Cuba in nearly 40 years.
2002 – 2012
Miami-based Speed Cargo Service and Apparel Transportation Inc. were both acquired to expand the company’s growing logistics operations.
Tom Crowley, Jr., was awarded the coveted AOTOS Mariners Award for his lifetime of dedication and commitment to the maritime industry.
Crowley welcomed newly-built Articulated Tug Barges (ATB) to the fleet and continued the buildout of 17 vessels grouped into three classes 550, 650 and 750.
Crowley expanded into Sakhalin State, Russia, to support the oil and gas industry.
Crowley transported the first shipments in more than 40 years of livestock (cows, sheep and bison) from the U.S. to Cuba.
Ship assist and tanker escort services resumed in the San Francisco Bay area.
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 welcomed the Marty J, the first of nine heavy-deck-strength 455 Series barges used for deepwater offshore energy exploration and development and the first two new Ocean class tugboats to the fleet.
Crowley and TITAN Salvage responded to the devastating earthquake in Haiti, reestablishing cargo delivery in the port and reopening the port to other government and commercial traffic over a period of several weeks.
The fleet of company-owned CATCO® Arctic All-Terrain vehicles was sold.
2013 – Present
A $550 million investment was made to transform logistics services between the U.S. Mainland and Puerto Rico, including construction of two new combination container/Roll-On Roll-Off (ConRo) ships powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG), new terminal facilities and gantry cranes in San Juan, and terminal improvements in Jacksonville, Fla., including LNG bunkering infrastructure
Two more Ocean Class tugs, four newly built, LNG-ready product tankers, two new 330,000-barrel tankers and the two new ConRos joined the fleet.
The company acquired Anderes Oil, Taku Oil Sales and Ace Fuels in Alaska; and SeaFreight Line, SeaFreight Agencies and SeaPack in the Caribbean Basin.
Titan, Jensen Maritime and partner Micoperi successfully removed the wrecked Costa Concordia concluding the largest maritime wreck removal project ever undertaken.
Crowley’s offshore marine and engineering teams completed the successful delivery of several offshore oil/gas production and drilling components including support for Olympus, Jack/St. Malo, Kitchen Lights, Appomattox and Tubular Bells.
Subsidiary Carib Energy, LLC received a 20-year, small-scale U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) export license for the supply, transportation and distribution of U.S.-sourced liquefied natural gas (LNG) into Non-Free Trade Agreement (NTFA) countries in the Caribbean, Central and South America.
The company provided logistics support services for Operation United Assistance (OUA), in West Africa, to combat the Ebola outbreak.
The 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.
Two Men at the Helm
This book chronicles the company’s first 100 years from 1892-1992. It is based on the recollections of Thomas Bannon Crowley Sr., Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, and other long-time employees of Crowley Maritime Corporation.
All quotations cited in the text are from interviews with, or other recorded statements made by Mr. Crowley in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. This book is free to read or download for offline use. Learn more about the Crowley family business and much more information. Thank you.
In 2013, Crowley Celebrates 60 Years of Service in Alaska
In 2013, Crowley celebrated its 60th anniversary of service to the people and businesses of Alaska. Over the years, Crowley has consistently provided unique solutions to Alaska’s logistics and marine transportation challenges. As Crowley reflects on its history of service in business development and protecting the Alaskan environment, it also sets its sights on another 60 years of growth and success.
50 Years in Central America: A Celebration of Leadership, Growth and Sustainability
2011 marks the 50th anniversary of ocean cargo transportation service between the U.S. and Central America for Crowley and its predecessor CCT. During this anniversary year, Crowley reflects on its history of faithful service to the people and ports of Central America and looks forward to the next 50 years of growth and opportunity. Thank you for stopping by and visiting our history page to view all the things we’ve done over the last 125 years.
Crowley Subsidiary Jensen Maritime Celebrates its 50th Anniversary
2011 marks the 50th anniversary of naval architecture and marine engineering excellence for Jensen Maritime. For 50 years, Jensen has been a recognized leader in these fields, designing and modifying virtually every type of vessel and providing on-location marine consulting wherever needed. As Jensen reflects on its history of innovative design and service, it also sets its sights on another 50 years of growth and success.
60 Years of Service in Puerto Rico
In 2014, Crowley celebrated its 60th anniversary of service to the people and businesses of Puerto Rico. Through the years, Crowley has continuously served the needs of people shipping cargo between “La Isla del Encanto” Puerto Rico and the United States mainland. To learn more about these decades of success and prosperity in Puerto Rico, and Crowley’s future commitment to the Island, click here.
Crowley Oral Histories
Thomas Crowley: Recollections of the San Francisco Waterfront
Crowley Maritime Corporation’s founder provides an oral history of his memories growing up and building a company on the San Francisco waterfront, in an interview conducted by Karl Kortum, founder of what is now the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, and Willa Klug Baum, internationally respected oral historian.
The digital version, housed at the University of California, Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, can be accessed here.
Thomas B. Crowley: San Francisco Bay Tugboats to International Transportation Fleet
A look at the continued growth of Crowley Maritime Corporation from the perspective of Thomas B. Crowley, whose oral account takes off where his father’s left off in Recollections of the San Francisco Waterfront.
The digital version, housed at the University of California, Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, can be accessed here.