Capt. Brian A. McAllister died in New York on June 29 at 89. He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Rosemary; his sons, Buckley and Eric; and four grandchildren.
A 1956 engineering graduate of the State University of New York Maritime College, Throggs Neck, N.Y., Capt. McAllister obtained a chief engineer’s license before changing careers to work as a deck officer. He served in the Navy during the Korean War as and was executive officer on the USS Lake County (LST 80). In 2017, he was awarded an honorary doctorate of science by SUNY Maritime.
He was a member of the fourth generation of the family maritime company which was founded in 1864. During the 1970s and 1980s, Capt. McAllister 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.
The '70s and '80s 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, the company said, and McAllister kept the company running by personally commanding vessels and piloting ship operations in New York, Philadelphia, and Norfolk., Va.
In the 1990s, he was involved in 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 the reorganization to completely rebuild the fleet. The company designed and built numerous tugboats and ferries equipped with technologies such as flanking rudders, Z-drives, low emission engines, advanced firefighting, and emergency response, some in its own shipyard.
In 2005, Capt. McAllister 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.
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, in 2015 he was named the Massachusetts Maritime Academy Maritime Person of the Year, and was inducted into the International Maritime Hall of Fame.
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.