Tug Company Occupies its Own Niche

One of the largest and busiest tug companies in the Bay Area never escorts large tankers and rarely performs ship assists. Instead, Westar Marine Service’s fleet of small tugs does a lot of barge handling and construction work from one end of the Bay to the other. 

Founded in 1976, the company got its start as a paint supplier that delivered to ships. From paint, the deliveries expanded and eventually water taxis were added. Now, the company has a 10,000-sq.ft. shop/warehouse, 125 employees, 18 tugs, 10 water taxis and 17 barges, including one dedicated to hauling molasses.

“Marine construction support is 95 percent of our business,” said Richard Smith, Westar’s general manager. Currently, many of the tugs, barges and water taxis are employed on the nearby Bay Bridge project. Westar has also been involved with many other large bridge construction projects in the area. This year, Westar added an aggregate barge to its growing equipment list. And with the only officially secured facilities plan in the Bay Area, Westar frequently facilitates fireworks shows. “About one a month,” said Smith.  

Westar has also benefited from a state program that pays for cleaner-than-required diesel engines. The program buys the engines and the operator pays to have them installed.  Smith said they’ve probably gotten more new engines from the program than any other Bay Area company.           — B. Buls 

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