McAllister Towing

Unsurpassed for 160 Years

We operate a fleet of more than 60 tugboats, crew boats, and barges in 13 locations along the U.S. East Coast from Eastport, ME to San Juan, PR. The fleet includes 38 Z-Drive/tractor tugs and 20-plus vessels involved in coastal towing with more than a combined 270,000 H.P. In each port, McAllister is engaged in ship docking (servicing more than 1,000 steamship companies), general harbor towing, coastal towing, windfarm support, and bulk transportation. We are currently building two new tractor tugs at Washburn & Doughty, which will add more than 13,000 hp to our fleet. These assets and our talented teams will ensure that we continue the McAllister family tradition of being an innovative force in marine transportation.

The American flag and McAllister flag fly from the mast of a tugboat

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. B. Buckley McAllister is the Chairman and CEO and a great-great-grandson of the founder, representing the fifth generation of McAllisters at the helm. Three additional McAllisters of the fifth generation are also employed by the company.

The founder of McAllister Towing - James McAllister
A photo of an early sail lighter

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 1880s, while the Brooklyn Bridge was still being built.

McAllister tugboats towing a large section of the Tappan Zee bridge.

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.

The Chas D. McAllister in New York harbor circa 1940.

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 Philadelphia, Virginia, and Canada.

McAllister tugs participate in the annual tug races in Portland, Maine.
The Robert McAllister with a beautiful sunset behind her.

Today, those operations have expanded to include offices in Portland ME, Providence RI, Baltimore MD, Wilmington NC, 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 1960s and '70s. In the 1980s and 1990s, McAllister continued to modernize its fleet of tugs by building Z-drive tractor tugs with the latest firefighting equipment and capabilities. Those efforts continue today. McAllister's fleet consists of over 60 vessels including 38 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.