Seattle company with strong Tacoma connections buys Caribbean shipping line

Staff writerApril 8, 2014 

A family-owned company, Saltchuk, that owns two major Tacoma businesses, Alaska shipping line Totem Ocean Trailer Express, and trucking company Interstate Distribution, announced this week it will buy Tropical Shipping, a shipping, distribution and insurance company serving the Bahamas and the Caribbean.

Tropical operates foreign-flagged vessels serving Caribbean islands and the Bahamas. It will compliment Saltchuk's Sea Star Line, which serves Puerto Rico with American-flagged vessels.

Saltchuk also owns and operates Foss Maritime, West Coast tug, barge and distribution company that had its origins in Tacoma.

TOTE operates two roll-on, roll-off trailerships between the Port of Tacoma and Anchorage. The company is in the process of converting those ships to operate on liquified natural gas, a fuel that's much less polluting than the diesel that most ships use.

The Tropical Shipping deal is expected to close within 90 days. Tropical valued the purchase at more than $200 million.

Saltchuk officials said Tropical Shipping is a natural fit for Saltchuk.

“Most importantly, Tropical shares our values.  The company has a strong safety culture, has the best on time service in its region, and is committed to giving back to the communities which it serves,” said Saltchuk Chairman Mark Tabbutt and President Tim Engle in an announcement to employees. “All of the traits that make our other companies so strong can be found also at Tropical.”

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