Thursday, January 6, 2011

FIDLEY WATCH - Changing of the Guard

January 2011

A recent press release from Marine Resources Group (the holding company for Foss Maritime, based in Seattle, AMNAV Maritime Services, based in San Francisco, and Hawaiian Tug & Barge/Young Brothers, based in Honolulu) signaled the acquisition of the assets of Cook Inlet Tug & Barge, based in Anchorage. It will operate as an independent subsidiary, effective Jan. 1, 2011. The family-owned Alaska company, which traces its history to 1923, has 10 employees and operates three tugs and one barge.

“Cook Inlet Tug & Barge is a perfect fit for our group,” says Paul Stevens, MRG chief executive officer. “We have broad experience in the harbor services business in the Lower 48 and in Hawaii, and this acquisition is a logical expansion into Alaska’s largest commercial port.”

Cook Inlet’s current owner, Carl Anderson, will remain at Cook Inlet Tug & Barge in a consulting capacity to support the business during the transition. All other employees are expected to stay with the company, including Capt. Brad Kroon, who will have overall management responsibility, and Capt. Katrina Anderson, Carl’s daughter, who will provide operational, administrative and safety-related support. Also with the company is Carl’s son Garrett, who works on the tugs.

“Dad’s thinking about retirement,” says Katrina Anderson, who notes that the business isn’t as simple as it used to be. “MRG wanted a presence in Cook Inlet, and we’re here,” she says. “It’s a pretty good fit.”

Katrina Anderson points out that, on top of his consulting duties, her dad still owns and operates related businesses in Anchorage, including Knik Dock Co. “He’ll still be pretty busy.”

I got Carl in trouble with some of our readers once, about ten years ago, when I ran a photo of one of his deckhands working the lines while bringing a TOTE ship into port. I took the photo myself – it was a balmy June day and the deckhand, wearing sandals and shorts, was standing outboard of the rail of the tug, on the rubber fender, passing a line over a Panama hook in the hull of the SS Great Land.

We got letters. Apparently there were safety violations taking place, and the responsible mariners in the lower 48 were (rightly) quick to point them out: open toed shoes, no harness, no personal flotation device, standing outside the rail, etc.

Carl was a good sport about the whole thing. He noted that the same guy had to do the same job in the dark in January in 40-knot winds and freezing spray and five-foot seas (when the sea wasn’t two feet of ice), and if he wanted to take advantage of the weather in June, Carl couldn’t hold it against him.

Times have changed.

In Seattle, things are changing, too. Late last month, Vigor Industrial LLC and Seattle’s Todd Shipyards Corporation entered into an agreement under which Vigor will acquire the shipyard for $22.27 per share, or $130 million. Vigor’s offer expires on January 28th, 2011. Todd’s management will remain intact, and all contracts will remain in place.

Todd has operated a shipyard in Seattle since 1916, and also operates facilities in Everett and Bremerton, Washington. Vigor, an Oregon company, operates several shipyards including Cascade General, US Barge and Washington Marine Repair.