Ground Broken on New Shipyard

Tuesday, July 19, 2005
As part of its continuing plans for diversification and expansion The Great Lakes Towing Company, a 106-year old tug company, now a multi-faceted marine transportation and ship and boat repair business, will construct a new $3,500,000 headquarters building and state-of-the-art shipyard complex on its present 6-acre deep waterfront property in the Old River Channel of the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio. Located at the foot of West 45th Street on Division Avenue, the new facilities will incorporate fabrication, welding and diesel shops to include new technologies. The 40’-high fabrication building will be equipped with a 10-ton overhead crane that will travel the entire 150’ length of the building, and its 30’ high by 40’ hanger door will permit indoor barge and tug construction and repairs. Major new yard equipment includes a specially designed service truck outfitted as a “mini-shipyard” complete with welding equipment, compressed air, generator, and a crane which is ideal for off-site vessel repairs.

With completion of the office and fabrication buildings, and the construction of new dock bulkheading, including an excavated boat slip in the spring of 2006, follow-on plans call for the installation of a 500-ton travel lift to complement the Company’s drydock and to permit simultaneous repair of multiple boats and barges expanding its vessel repair and marina service capabilities.

On July 20, 2005, “the Towing Company”, as it is widely known, because of its lakes-wide presence and dominance in the tugboat market, will mark its 106th Anniversary with a groundbreaking ceremony at the construction site. The expansion is expected to create economic growth and 25 new jobs in the first 3 years of operation with a potential for more. The new facilities are within a few city blocks of Cleveland’s Max S. Hayes Vocational High School. Through its partnership with the Towing Company, student welders and mechanics will have an opportunity to obtain paid shipyard internships while attending school and during their summer recess, with further opportunity for career jobs in the shipyard and on board tugs. The new facilities include a classroom for onsite training.

Notwithstanding expansion and diversification, “we are committed to the Great Lakes region and to Cleveland, our home.” said Ronald C. Rasmus, president of the Towing Company. Our groundbreaking represents the Company’s renewed commitment to the City of Cleveland and to the Great Lakes maritime community. The National City Bank, the City of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, and the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority are providing the project financing. The Port Authority is the owner of the riverfront property and, in conjunction with the project, has agreed to extend the Company’s current lease to 53 years. City, County low interest loans, and the Port Authority’s bond issue make it possible for the Company to remain in Cleveland. The Company was considering relocation to Burns Harbor, Indiana or Chicago, Illinois.

The new facility will also house the Towing Company’s recently purchased, Buffalo-based barge fabrication company called "Dock Master,” which it relocated to Cleveland. Dock Master’s primary product is a truckable-sized barge, generally used for marine construction projects and marina platforms. These steel units are typically 40'L x 10'W x 4'H and weigh about 20,000 pounds each. Two units can be loaded onto one flatbed truck and can be delivered almost anywhere. Once the units reach their destination, they are placed in the water and pinned together to form a platform large enough to support whatever load is required. The truckable barge is very popular with inland marine contractors, especially those that operate in remote locations. The truckable barges are also utilized by the Navy,Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers, and municipal marinas and parks. The Towing Company’s Shipyard Division hopes to serve a repeat clientele who demand high-quality, reliable, and on-time service from skilled craftsmen with detailed knowledge of their trade.

The Company’s existing 90’ x 50’ floating drydock with a 300-gross ton lift capacity is used to service its “G” tugs, but is also used to support commercial shipyard operations specializing in all types of marine repair services for tugboats, supply boats, ferries, barges, excursion vessels, large yachts, research vessels, and even topside repairs for large domestic and foreign vessels in Cleveland and in other ports. It is a major repair yard for U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Geological Survey vessels on the Great Lakes, and, as such, “a tribute to our high-quality workmanship, on-time performance, and competitive pricing,” said Rasmus.

As the Towing Company celebrates its 106 years in continuous business, it is interesting to understand that at its founding on July 7, 1899, at the time the incandescent light was first being introduced, the Company roster of initial directors and shareholders included many prominent industrialists and Great Lakes shipping magnates: William G. Mather, Henry Dalton, Leonard C. Hanna, Thomas Wilson, James H. Hoyt, Robert L. Ireland, Augustus B. Wolvin, Harry Coulby, Samuel Mather, William G. Mather, Henry Pickands, James R. Sinclair, John D. Rockefeller, Henry and Sophia Steinbrenner, and Jeptha H. Wade.

Even though the company was a product of the 19th Century, it established its presence as the Lakes’ premier towing firm in the 20th century, and now plans to expand its business on and off the Lakes even further in the 21st century.

Over the years The Great Lakes Towing Company has skillfully adapted to changes and trends in waterborne commerce on and off the Great Lakes. Its operations have expanded to encompass not only the Lakes and Seaway System but also to include niche markets on U.S. salt-water coasts and the Caribbean.

The Company’s tug fleet today, serving more than 40 U.S. ports in all eight Great Lakes states and the Seaway, is the largest U.S.-flag tug company on the Lakes. Great Lakes Towing owns and operates 50 tugs, all red-cabined, green-hulled and bearing the squared-off white “G” on their stacks. Nearly all are named for U.S. states.

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