The Campbell Foss was converted over to a hybrid propulsion system in 2012
INNOVATION LEADS THE WAY By Shirley Del Valle, Associate Editor
Seattle’s Foss Maritime celebrates 125th Anniversary
he journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step—at least according to the old adage. Similarly, a 125-year history of success and innovation begins with a single boat—a single rowboat to be more precise. In 1889, a Norwegian immigrant by the name of Thea Foss and her husband, Andrew Foss, laid the groundwork on what would eventually become one of the most innovative and successful maritime companies in the world—Foss Maritime. The company, which currently operates a fleet of over 150 tugs and barges and has more that 1,500 employees worldwide, is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year.
MOTHER OF INNOVATION Thea’s ability to take a rowboat and turn it into a regional mainstay was no small task. What began with a single rowboat (that Thea painted in Foss’ now familiar green and white) soon turned into a fleet of rowboats that were rented out to the Tacoma, WA, locals. As business began to boom, Foss went from renting rowboats to providing a launch service and a water taxi. By 1912, the company entered the tugboat market with the purchase of its first tug—and soon its ground-breaking history begins. 12 MARINE LOG July 2014
After acquiring the Foss 9, Foss ordered a new tug and the first motorized fireboat for the Puget Sound, the Foss 12. Further paving the way for Foss’ growth was the company’s third tug, the Foss 6, which introduced the world to “the innovative teardrop shaped hull designed by Andrew Foss.” Soon after, as World War II reared its ugly head, Foss gained the attention of the U.S. Army and Navy—who required Foss’ services and equipment (including tugs) during the war. On the occasion of its 50th anniversary, Arthur Foss said, “The history of the company is that of adapting ourselves to changed conditions…” at the time, Arthur was commenting on the company’s shift into the towing market, but the spirit of adaptation and moving forward is one that remains prevalent in Foss’ DNA. “That entrepreneurial spirit is foundational to Foss,” says current President and CEO Paul Stevens, “and [is] fully embedded in our company culture. Our best ideas have always come from inside the company. We create internal opportunities to offer ideas; we listen to those ideas, vet them and often embrace them.” That openness has led to some of the company’s most defining moments, according to Stephens. “We know that to create movement and change you have to be ready to meet customer needs and to take