Capt. Brian A. McAllister, Chairman of McAllister Towing, Passes Away

brian mcallister
Image courtesy SUNY Maritime

Published Jun 30, 2022 5:16 PM by The Maritime Executive

East Coast ship-assist giant McAllister Towing announced Thursday that its longtime chairman, Capt. Brian A. McAllister, has passed away. He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Rosemary; his sons, Buckley and Eric; and four grandchildren.

"It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of our beloved Captain.  Brian, who changed the future of McAllister Towing when he bought the company with his brothers and cousins, passed away peacefully this morning at his home," the firm said in a statement. "We ask that you keep the McAllister family in your thoughts and hearts during this very difficult time."

Brian McAllister was part of the fourth generation of McAllisters to run the firm, which is now under the management of the fifth generation of family ownership. He was born in Brooklyn and attended SUNY Maritime, where he graduated in 1956 with a degree in marine engineering. He served in the Navy for two years before going deep sea with Isbrandtsen Lines as a third engineer. In 1959, he joined the family firm and worked aboard McAllister tugs in multiple East Coast harbors. He earned his master's license and moved ashore in 1964 to take over the role of port captain. 

In 1974, Brian McAllister and other members of the family's fourth generation bought the company from their predecessors. He helped navigate McAllister through a period of labor strife in the 1980s, occasionally commanding vessels personally to keep operations running. After he took over as president in 1984, he helped shepherd the company's expansion to many other Atlantic coast ports, including Portland, Baltimore, Wilmington, Georgetown, Charleston, Jacksonville, Port Everglades and San Juan, Puerto Rico. He became sole owner in 1998 and oversaw the modernization of the fleet, including the introduction of z-drive tugs. 

Brian McAllister was also well-known as a philanthropic supporter of SUNY Maritime, donating both financial support and ship-assist services for the college. In 2016, SUNY Maritime awarded him an honorary doctorate in recognition for his many contributions to the college and the maritime community. He was also a board member for 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 inducted into the International Maritime Hall of Fame in 2015.

Today, five members of the family's fifth generation run McAllister Towing, continuing an unbroken 158-year line at one of the country's oldest and largest family-owned towage companies.