The Great Lakes Towing Company has played a major role in the maritime industry on the Great Lakes since its incorporation in New Jersey on July 7, 1899. The Company’s founding shareholders comprised a veritable “Who’s Who” of the nation’s great industrialists of the day, including John D. Rockefeller, Jeptha H. Wade, and James R. Sinclair, among others. Popularly called “The Towing Company” for its entire 125-year history, the Company has been a significant marine operations link in one of the major economic lifelines of North America — the fourth seacoast and the Great Lakes Seaway System. The Towing Company has continuously evolved to meet the changing demands of the agricultural, steel, and construction industries, and the needs of the ships and tug/barge units that serve those industries. The Great Lakes Group of Companies also includes:
- Tugz International LLC, founded in 1998, specializes in vessel design, construction, and chartering;
- Admiral Towing & Barge Company, founded in 1999, is primarily engaged in government operations;
- Soo Line Handling Services, Inc., provides line handling services at the US Army Corps of Engineers at the Soo Locks, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan; and
- Wind Logistics Inc., a newly created company, participates in the developing offshore wind turbine industry.
Since its founding, the Company was headquartered in the Terminal Tower in Cleveland, Ohio until its move to its present location. The Company has always operated a Cleveland-based Shipyard. Originally on Jefferson Road in the Flats until the Great Cuyahoga River fire in 1952 when it moved to the present site in the Old River Bed, the Shipyard constructed many of its tugs and repaired all of the Towing Company’s tugs and barges throughout its history. Later, in 1983, the Shipyard entered the commercial ship repair business, but the scope and volume of this business was restricted due to the physical size of the facility and the limited capacity of its equipment.
The Company decided to embark on a bold expansion project to revitalize and expand its traditional maritime businesses. The Shipyard Expansion Project is a four PHASE project which, at a total cost to date of $11.345 million, included:
- Land acquisition (now totaling 7.26 acres with a potential additional 8.97 acres under environmental evaluation and contract totaling 16.23 acres)
- Environmental land remediation (from a former Superfund site)
- Bulkheading (1,776 linear feet)
- Ground stabilization
- Construction of a new headquarters building (7,768 square feet)
- Construction of a new indoor state-of-the-art shipyard facility (10,917 square feet)
- Construction of a concrete reinforced slip
- Acquisition and installation of the 900-ton Travelift
- Construction of a new 68-foot-high temporary Shipyard facility (10,500 square feet)
The Shipyard Expansion Project demonstrates the Company’s commitment to fostering economic development by retaining existing jobs and creating new jobs in the old-fashioned way – by creating new business opportunities using technologically advanced tools and equipment.
The Great Lakes Towing Company, through the development of its Shipyard and the formation of its subsidiary companies, found a way to continually adapt and improve its services to the needs of each new day. As The Great Lakes Group today stands upon the achievements of its historic past, it also faces the future as a challenge to be met with the full resources at its command.