Photo courtesy McAllister Towing

McAllister Towing’s Captain Brian A. McAllister Dies at 89

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 2836
July 1, 2022

Captain Brian A. McAllister, former chairman of U.S. East Coast tug operation McAllister Towing, passed away Wednesday at the age of 89, the company has announced.

Captain McAllister was the former President and a great-grandson of the company’s founder, representing the fourth generation of McAllisters to lead the company.

“It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of our beloved Captain. Brian, who changed the future of McAllister Towing when he bought the company with his brothers and cousins, passed away peacefully this morning at his home. We ask that you keep the McAllister family in your thoughts and hearts during this very difficult time,” the company said in a statement.

Captain McAllister is survived by his wife of 55 years, Rosemary; his sons, Buckley and Eric; and four grandchildren.

The company provided the following in memoriam:

A 1956 engineering graduate of the State University of New York Maritime College, Capt. McAllister went on to obtain a Chief Engineer’s License before changing careers to work as a Deck Officer. He served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War as Lieutenant Junior Grade and was Executive Officer on the USS Lake County (LST 80). In 2017, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science by his Alma Mater.

He was proud to be a member of the fourth generation of the family maritime company which had been founded in 1864. A repeated pattern of disaster, opportunity, and personal strength of character enabled Capt. McAllister to expand the company. During the 1970s and 1980s, he established operations in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Bonaire, Panama, and Peru. Later in his career, he expanded the business to Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. This growth was driven by a mixture of navigational know-how, technological innovation, a cadre of excellent mariners, and a passion for investing in the transportation industry. He rarely boarded a vessel he didn’t love.

The 1970s and 1980s were also characterized by long years of labor strife. The sharp downturn in the price of oil in the 1980s dramatically changed the competitive landscape throughout the industry. Hundreds of incidents of violence between union and non-union seamen were reported during this period. Capt. McAllister kept the company running by personally commanding vessels and piloting ship operations in New York, Philadelphia, and Norfolk.

In the 1990s, he was involved in acrimonious litigation over control of the company. In 1998, he became the first sole owner of McAllister Towing since its founding in a transaction that spun off its foreign subsidiaries. He used this reorganization as an impetus to completely rebuild the fleet. Under his leadership, the company designed and constructed numerous tugboats and ferries equipped with technologies such as flanking rudders, Z-drives, low emission engines, advanced fire-fighting, and emergency response, some in its own shipyard.

Late in life, the boy who went to college to play basketball discovered the beauty and importance of maritime history. In 2005, he supported the publication of an award-winning title, Tugboats of New York, by George Matteson. In 2015, he participated writing the book McAllister Towing, 150 Years of Family Business. In 2016, he was featured in Heroes of the Harbor by Marian Betancourt. In 2018, he was thanked by Jennifer Egan for providing background for her book Manhattan Beach.

Capt. McAllister served on numerous boards including the South Street Seaport Museum, the Maritime Association of New York/New Jersey, the National Maritime Historical Society, the American Bureau of Shipping, and the American Steamship Owners Mutual Protection and Indemnity Association. He was the recipient of many awards and honors including the 2012 National Maritime Historical Society Distinguished Service Medal, the 2013 Seamen’s Church Institute Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2015 Massachusetts Maritime Academy Maritime Person of the Year, a 2015 induction into the International Maritime Hall of Fame, and a 2017 Honorary Doctorate of Science from the State University of New York.

In his commencement speech to the 2017 graduates of SUNY Maritime, McAllister told the graduates that the secret to his success had been a good education, the willingness to take on new challenges, and the luck of having many friends to help him to seize opportunities. He encouraged the Class of 2017 that some of the greatest assets to help advance their careers would be their classmates. He further counseled them with his enduring motto: “…and keep the flag flying.”

In lieu of flowers, the company is asking people to consider a donation to the Seamen’s Church Institute, www.seamenschurch.org.

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