Moran Towing Corporation, Inc. History

Address:
2 Greenwich Plaza
Greenwich, Connecticut 06830
U.S.A.

Telephone: (203) 625-7857
Fax: (203) 625-7857

Private Company
Incorporated: 1905
Employees: 630
Sales: $89 million (1992)
SICs: 4492 Towing & Tugboat Services; 4449 Water Transportation of Freight, Not Elsewhere

Company History:

The Moran Towing Corporation, Inc. is the largest privately owned tugboat company operating on the East Coast of the United States and a leader in oil and dry-bulk barge transportation. A family-owned business for more than a century, the company was purchased in 1994 by a group of investors headed by Paul R. Tregurtha and James R. Baker, who were also principals in the Mormac Marine Group and the Interlake Steamship Company.

Although it was incorporated in 1905, Moran Towing traces its origins to 1855, when Michael Moran, a 22-year-old immigrant from Ireland, used money he saved as a muleskinner on the Erie Canal to buy a barge. Five years later, after acquiring several more barges, Moran headed to New York City, where he set himself up as a tugboat agent. In 1863, he paid $2,700 for half interest in the Ida Miller, a 42-ton, steam-driven harbor towboat.

By the 1880s, Moran Towing was an established company serving the busy New York Harbor, and in 1883, Michael Moran was asked to serve as commodore of the tugboat division for the 1883 ship parade celebrating the centennial of the British evacuation during the Revolutionary War. After the parade, Michael Moran continued to use the title "Commodore." His son, Eugene F. Moran Sr., then 11 years old, recalled in Tugboat: The Moran Story, "Nothing, since he established himself in New York, gave him a greater sense of accomplishment than the name of commodore.... He had become a personality among seafaring men." Almost 70 years later, The New Yorker would describe Michael Moran as a "bold but pious" man who "often found it necessary to use a fleshly approach in refining the general spirit. Upon finding a couple of his subordinates drunk and brawling, he would seize them and start banging their heads together, meanwhile crying out admonitions mixed with Scripture."

Michael Moran also started the company tradition of naming tugboats after family members in 1881, when he christened the Maggie Moran, the first tug built for Moran Towing, for his first wife, Margaret. About the same time, he began the tradition of painting a block letter "M" in white on the black smokestacks of his tugboats.

When Moran Towing was incorporated in 1905, Michael Moran, then 73, was president of the company, and Eugene Sr., then 33, was vice-president. That same year, Moran Towing set a record for long-distance hauls when it towed a barge from New York to San Francisco, 13,220 miles around Cape Horn. Michael Moran died a year later and was succeeded as president by his son, who quickly developed a reputation of his own.

Again according to The New Yorker, "The complaint was often made...that [Eugene Sr.] seemed to think that he had bought New York Harbor and was merely letting the public use it out of politeness." He also used the title commodore, "a rank he feels he inherited from his father." In fact, Eugene Sr. received a legitimate naval rank in March 1917, less than a month before the United States entered World War I, when he was commissioned a lieutenant in the Naval Reserve at the direction of Franklin D. Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Eugene Sr. was appointed to a three-man commission whose mission was to provide the French and English with boats for submarine patrols as quickly as possible.

After the war, The New Yorker noted that Eugene Sr. "tackled the job with his customary energy and before very long the rest of the board more or less gave up and let him proceed largely on his own." Under his direction, the commission purchased 50 yachts, tugs, and fishing boats from private owners, had them armed and painted gray, and sent overseas. Eugene Sr. was also responsible for securing and equipping 16 tugboats, including three from Moran Towing, as minesweepers to patrol the U.S. coast off New York City. He was later assigned to the Shipping Control Committee as a consultant to inspect vessels used to carry troops to France.

When the war ended, Eugene Sr. returned to running Moran Towing. One of his first decisions was to buy back the M. Moran, a tugboat that had been sold to the British Admiralty in 1916. Moran Towing also purchased five 100-foot, steam-powered tugboats built by the U.S. government during the war. He later wrote, "With the introduction of the 100-foot tug the transport business in the Port of New York was revolutionized. The 100-foot tug, despite its faulty design and poor construction...furnished a force equal to two or three of the low-power tugs dispersed at random."

In the mid-1930s, Moran Towing began to replace its steam-powered tugs with diesel-powered vessels, which allowed the company to expand its coastal and ocean-going operations. By 1940, the company had 11 diesel-powered tugs built at a cost of $2.5 million. One of these, the Edmond J. Moran, named for Eugene Sr.'s nephew, was designed to cross the Atlantic and back without refueling.

Eugene Sr. stepped down as president of Moran Towing in 1941, continuing as chairman of the board, and was succeeded by his nephew, Edmond. But his semi-retirement was short-lived. When the United States entered World War II the following January, Edmond resigned from the company and went on active duty as a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve. Eugene Sr. re-assumed the responsibilities of president.

Following in his uncle's footsteps, Edmond was appointed to the War Shipping Administration, a branch of the U.S. Maritime Commission, where he assembled a merchant marine fleet of 2,000 small boats. Later, he was assigned to the Eastern Sea Frontier where he was responsible for dispatching tugs to the aid of torpedoed ships. During the Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944, Edmond commanded an armada of tugs and barges that spent ten days ferrying concrete caissons and steel piers across the English Channel to establish man-made harbors. For his role in the D-Day invasion, Edmond was promoted to rear admiral and awarded the Legion of Merit by the United States and the Croix de Guerre by the French government. He was also named Honorary Commander, Military Division, Order of the British Empire. He resumed the presidency of Moran Towing in 1946.

During the war, Moran Towing had operated 112 towboats, including 49 195-foot V-4 tugs built by the U.S. government. The company completed 1,153 assignments for the military, losing two tugs and sinking a German submarine off the coast of Florida. Soon after the war ended, The New York Times reported that Moran Towing planned to spend $1 million to "insure the most modern harbor fleet in the world in the post-war period." The Levingston Shipbuilding Company of Orange, Texas, was contracted to build five steel-hulled, diesel-electric tugs for Moran that were completed in 1949.

Moran Towing also began acquiring other tugboat companies, starting with E.E. Barrett & Co. in 1949, the Olsen Water and Towing Co. in 1950, and the Meseck Towing Co. in 1954. By 1955, when Moran Towing acquired the Dauntless Towing Line, the company had become the largest commercial fleet in the world with 50 tugs and 19 scows and barges. At the time, Moran Towing had only two major competitors left in New York, the Dalzell Towing Company and McAllister Brothers.

Moran Towing and the Seaboard Shipping Co, also announced a joint venture in 1955 to haul petroleum products on the Ohio River between Mount Vernon, Indiana, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Moran Inland Waterways Corporation lasted just four years before the company sold its assets to the National Marine Service.

In 1958, Moran Towing acquired Curtis Bay Towing, which extended the company's operations from Maryland to Texas. Divisions of Curtis Bay Towing would eventually become Moran Towing of Maryland, Moran Towing of Pennsylvania, Moran Towing of Virginia and Moran Towing of Texas.

When Eugene Sr. died in 1961, Edmond became chairman as well as president. Three years later, Edmond turned over the presidency to his son, Thomas E. Moran, who had spent 18 years with Marine Transport Lines, Inc., before joining the family business. Moran Towing also launched another expansion in the early 1960s, contracting for 13 new tugs to be delivered by 1967, including four 4,290-horsepower towboats designed to handle large tankers and container ships. That was followed in 1971 with an order for five 3,300 horsepower tugs and in 1974 with an order for four 4,750 horsepower tugs designed for long-haul ocean towing.

By 1976, when Moran Towing acquired the Florida Towing Company in Jacksonville, it was operating 30 tugs in New York Harbor and 80 worldwide. The New York Times noted that Thomas Moran was "pushing Moran more heavily into transportation of bulk cargo by tug and barge." Indeed, revenues from docking activities would fall from 75 percent of the company's business in 1964 to just 25 percent in 1976.

There was further diversification in the late 1970s and early 1980s, including establishment of salvage, oil pollution clean-up, and ocean engineering services. In 1984, Thomas Moran, then president, CEO and chairman, consolidated ownership of the company, which had become dispersed among dozens of Moran family members, by acquiring 75 percent of the stock. The other 25 percent was held by a group of senior managers.

Thomas Moran stepped down as president of Moran Towing in 1987, but remained chairman and CEO. Malcolm MacLeod, a graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy who went to work for the company as a mess boy in 1954, became the first person from outside the Moran family to be named president of the company. When MacLeod was named CEO three years later, The New York Times noted, "In the tight-knit, tradition-bound world of tugboats and barges, big changes do not come often. But last week, one industry leader, the Moran Towing Corporation, for the first time in its 130-year history went outside the Moran family in naming a chief executive."

In 1994, Paul R. Tregurtha and James R. Baker, principals in the Mormac Marine Group and The Interlake Steamship Company, formed the Moran Transportation Company, which acquired Thomas Moran's 75 percent stake in Moran Towing for an estimated $75 million. Mormac Marine and The Interlake Steam Ship Co. operated several oceangoing tankers and Great Lakes dry-bulk barges.

Principal Subsidiaries: Moran Towing and Transportation Co., Inc.; Moran Towing of New Hampshire, Inc.; Moran Mid-Atlantic Corporation; Moran Towing of Florida, Inc.; Moran Towing of Miami, Inc.; Moran Towing of Texas, Inc.

Further Reading:

  • "Admiral Edmond J. Moran," Tow Line (company publication), Winter 1993/1994, p. 4.
  • "For Moran Towing, A Presidential First," The New York Times, March 26, 1987.
  • Horne, George, "Moran 'Too Busy' to Mark Birthday," The New York Times, March 23, 1950, p. V9.
  • Moran, Edmond J., "An Editorial," Tow Line (company publication), Summer 1968, p. 4.
  • Moran, Edmond J., The Moran Story, New York: The Newcomen Society, 1965.
  • Moran, Eugene F., and Louis Reid, Tugboat: The Moran Story, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1956, 364 p.
  • "Moran Has First Chief Who Isn't a Moran," The New York Times, December 25, 1990, p. 45.
  • "Moran's Florida Towing Company Grows With Port of Jacksonville," Tow Line (company publication), Fall 1978, p. 4.
  • "National Marine Buys Barge Fleet," The New York Times, May 5, 1962, p. 54.
  • "A New Chapter in Moran's History," Tow Line (company publication), No. 1, 1985, p. 4.
  • "News of Interest in Shipping Field," The New York Times, March 30, 1955, p. 59.
  • "Oil Tank Barge Venture," The New York Times, June 22, 1955, p. 58.
  • Peet, Creighton, "The Man from Moran," Popular Mechanics, November 1967, pp. 136-139.
  • "Post-War Service in Towing Planned," The New York Times, September 10, 1945, p. 25.
  • "Power for the Port," Tow Line (company publication), Fall 1968, p. 3.
  • Taylor, Robert Lewis, "Profiles: The Elegant Tugboater I," The New Yorker, November 3, 1945, pp. 32-38.
  • ------, "Profiles: The Elegant Tugboater II," The New Yorker, November 10, 1945, pp. 33-41.
  • "Tugboats: Brawn--and Brain," Newsweek, August 7, 1961, p. 58.
  • "Welcoming the Queen," Tow Line (company publication), Summer 1969, p. 4.
  • White, David F., "A Seagoing Tug-of-War: Morans vs. McAllisters," The New York Times, October 7, 1976, p. 49.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 15. St. James Press, 1996.