Foss Maritime’s ‘heartbreaking’ boatyard closure reflects rough waters in a historic Seattle industry

Foss Maritime, which traces its history to a Tacoma rowboat operation founded by Norwegian immigrant Thea Foss in 1889, is closing its Seattle shipyard, the company announced Saturday.

A spokesman said the operation employed 115 people as of September. Although the closure is effective immediately, the company said workers will be paid for two more months. “Shipyard employees will continue to receive salary, benefits, and an average of overtime wages through the end of the year, though with no work requirement, as operations have ceased,” according to the company’s announcement.

That in effect matches the requirements of the federal WARN Act, which requires most employers of 100 or more to provide 60 days’ notice of a plant closure.

Foss Maritime, a unit of the Seattle-based maritime and logistics conglomerate Saltchuk, operates a large tug fleet at ports along the West Coast, as well as in Houston and Mobile, Alabama.

The company offered a brief explanation of the closure: “The difficult decision is a result of Foss Maritime’s regular evaluation of business lines and follows the company’s diligent effort to improve the viability of the Seattle shipyard over many years.”


It said Foss will use other Pacific Northwest shipyards for maintenance and repair of its vessels, and other parts of Foss will not be affected by the closure.

No one from Foss or Saltchuk was available to comment Saturday, an outside spokesman said.

Saltchuk, which employs about 5,000, also owns Alaska logistics service Tote Maritime and other operations. The privately owned company, headquartered on Alaskan Way on the Seattle waterfront, has acquired about 30 companies since its founding in 1982, according to its website.