The Port of San Diego has more than 600 tenants and subtenants that do business on more than 3,400 acres of state land administered by the Port District. Tenants range from gleaming high-rise waterfront hotels to mom-and-pop bait and tackle shops. The Port District is highlighting tenants in its continuing feature: Spotlight on Tenants.
The featured tenant in this installment is Pacific Tugboat Service, located at the Port of San Diego's working waterfront on San Diego Bay.
- Business: Pacific Tugboat Service
- Address: 1444 Cesar Chavez Parkway, San Diego (map)
- Phone: (619) 533-7932
- On the web: Pacific Tugboat Service
- Specialty: Marine services for commercial and naval ships, marine construction and salvage, freight hauling and ship services such as maintenance and equipment repair
- Employees: 55
- Established: 1980
From its humble beginnings three decades ago – when it had just two small tugs and six employees - Pacific Tugboat Service has pulled and prodded its way to become a multi-million-dollar business.
The company's vessel fleet now includes more than 20 tugs that divide time between its San Diego headquarters and offices in the Long Beach-Los Angeles area. It has several large contracts, including jobs with the Navy to construct sensitive underwater projects and build $10 million tugboats for America's sea service.
As the fleet has expanded, so has the company line of work that includes pile driving, marine construction and installation and crane services that can be provided on land or sea.
Marine salvaging is one of the company's services. It has retrieved tons of debris and sunken vessels from the bay and seafloor. Included was the recovery of an infamous three-story, glass-bottom party boat - Neptune's Palace - that sank in South San Diego Bay years ago. The company salvaged a downed Navy F-18 off Coronado. And, earlier this year, it used a floating crane to retrieve a private helicopter that crashed into the bay.
Last year, the company invested more than $1 million to purchase a large barge and a 300-ton crane. The equipment was used to erect those underwater structures for the Navy off the Silver Strand in Coronado.
Besides building its own tugs, the company has contracts to build six state of the art Navy tugs at a Tacoma, Wash. shipyard.
Today, you can find Pac-Tug crews up the coast near Santa Barbara in the Channel Islands area where workers are installing offshore moorings for an oil company. Crews can also be found rebuilding a private dock in the Shelter Island area of San Diego Bay. Another crew is north of San Clemente Island building concrete obstacles that will be demolished as part of Navy Seal training.
Those 5-foot cube-shaped concrete obstacles weigh about 2,000 to 2,500 pounds, and Pacific Tugboat Service builds them at its Long Beach facility.
"Some of our own boats - the Harbor Commander, the Harbor Captain and the Harbor Admiral - were built in San Diego," said Vice President Steve Frailey.
Frailey and two other partners, President and CEO Ted Griffith and Senior Vice President Grant Westmorland, share ownership of the company.
Pacific Tugboat Service is a key business on San Diego Bay, as well an environmental steward. The company is among 54 Port District tenants participating in the Port of San Diego's Green Business Challenge. The challenge is designed to promote business practices that reduce energy consumption, water use, waste, and prevent pollution.
Even before joining the challenge, the company was addressing environmental issues, including air quality.
The engines on the company's tugs and other vessels were once heavy polluters.
"Like an old locomotive pumping out black smoke," Frailey said.
The state has mandated that companies like Pacific Tugboat Service reduce air emissions and the company has acted ahead of those regulations and ahead of the competition.
Millions of dollars were invested in new engines and clean technology. About 50 engines were replaced on all its vessels.
"We are located in San Diego's Barrio Logan and I'm happy to say that we are contributing to improved air quality," Frailey said.
The company also is planning a major improvement of its property on Cesar Chavez Parkway. The aged, 600-foot creosote-wood pier is being replaced with a clean and durable concrete pier. It also is installing a storm-water collection and filtration system, so untreated water will no longer flow into San Diego Bay.
"I am proud to talk about our environmental efforts," Frailey said. "It is very important, especially to those of us on the water."
The headquarters for Pacific Tugboat Service is housed in a two-story box-shaped building on a pier, south of the Port of San Diego's Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal.
Frailey, still a licensed captain, said his best days are when he can get out on San Diego Bay "and drive around and work with people who are always happy to see us."
While he isn't out on the bay every day, he still enjoys great days from the company's waterfront headquarters.
"We are treated every day to a million-dollar view of San Diego Bay," Frailey said.
The Port of San Diego was created by the state legislature in 1962 and is responsible for $1.7 billion in public improvements in its five member cities: Imperial Beach, San Diego, Coronado, Chula Vista and National City.
The Port oversees two maritime cargo terminals, two cruise ship terminals, 17 public parks, the Harbor Police Department and the leases of more than 600 tenant and sub tenant businesses around San Diego Bay.
The Green Business Challenge is a joint program between the port and San Diego Gas & Electric. The program encourages port tenant businesses to increase energy efficiency while reducing their environmental impact.
The challenge is just one component of the port's environmental initiatives. As an environmental steward of San Diego Bay, the port has established several programs to minimize its environmental footprint, as well as to protect San Diego Bay and the surrounding land.