Our History

Seaspan and the Washington Group of Companies

In 1964, Dennis Washington started the Washington Construction Company with a loan and a leased bulldozer. The company was contracted to repair roads for the U.S. Forest Service. After winning major highway contracts in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Washington Construction next applied its earth moving capability to mine construction and operation and continued to grow with federal, state, and local highway construction projects.

A period of company divestments and acquisitions followed until 1992, when Mr. Washington diversified into marine transportation with the purchase of Canadian tugboat company, C.H. Cates and Sons. The next acquisition occurred in 1994 with purchase of Seaspan International Ltd., one of the largest tug and barge companies in Canada, which included shipyards operations.

In 1998, a commercial ferry service to Vancouver Island was acquired, operating today as Seaspan Ferries Corporation.

In 1999, Seaspan Container Lines was formed and initially ordered construction of a fleet of 23 container ships. Via a successful IPO in 2006 this became Seaspan Corporation (NYSE:SSW).

In 2011, the several privately held Canadian marine companies, including towing, shipyards, and ferries operations, focused marketing under the Seaspan brand. Also in 2011, Seaspan won a significant federal contract to build non-combat vessels at its shipyards, boosting expansion in shipbuilding.

The Washington Companies

  • 1886 – 1988

    1886 – 1988

    CH Cates & Sons
    • 1886 Charles Henry Cates arrives in Vancouver and begins his first business operations
    • 1921 CH Cates and Sons Limited is officially incorporated and established at the foot of Lonsdale Avenue
    • 1988 CH Cates and Sons Limited acquires Seaforth Towing

    Photo courtesy of Monova: Archives of North Vancouver.

  • 1898 – 1924

    1898 – 1924

    Vancouver Tug
    • 1898 Vancouver Tug formed by Harry A. Jones
    • 1919 Harry A. Jones sold Vancouver Tug and passed away four years later
    • 1924 Vancouver Tug business revived by Harold Jones (Harry Jone’s son). Business re-named

    Photo courtesy of Monova: Archives of North Vancouver.

  • 1924 – 1960

    1924 – 1960

    Island Tug and Barge
    • 1924 Island Tug & Barge formed by Harold B. Elworthy
    • 1926 Elworthy acquired Gardner Towing
    • 1937 Elworthy purchased a 1500 horsepower US Coastguard cutter named Snohomish, equipped it for towing and salvage and made it the company flagship
    • 1954 Island Tug & Barge acquired a vessel named Sudbury, which for more than a decade was BC’s most famous tug
    • 1956 Island Tug acquired Young & Gore
    • 1958 Island Tug acquired Victoria Tug
    • 1960 McAllister Towing, of Montreal, purchased Island Tug and then Griffiths Steamship Company in 1961
  • 1954 – 1969

    1954 – 1969

    Vancouver Tug Boat Company
    • 1920s To cut costs and further integrate its operations, Vancouver Tug purchased Vancouver Shipyards (originally incorporated in 1902)
    • 1956 Harold Jones passed away leaving Vancouver Tug to Beverly McCarvill O’Toole. During that time Arthur Lind and Captain James Stewart guided the company into amajor expansion and rebuilding program
    • 1962 Vancouver Tug acquired Vancouver Barge Transportation
    • 1963 Vancouver Tug acquired Pacific Tanker
    • 1965 Vancouver Tug acquired Western Tug & Barge
    • 1966 Vancouver Tug launches the pride of their fleet – a 3500 horsepower, 136 foot tug named the Harold A. Jones
    • 1967 Vancouver Tug and Vancouver Shipyards purchased by Dillingham Corporation and vacated locations at the foot of Denman Street, in Vancouver, to move across Burrard Inlet to a 40 acre waterfront site at the foot of Pemberton Avenue, in North Vancouver

    Photo courtesy of Monova: Archives of North Vancouver.

  • 1969 – 1991

    1969 – 1991

    Seaspan is Born – Genstar appears
    • 1969 Genstar Ltd. acquired Island Tug & Barge
    • 1970 Genstar joined with Dillingham Corporation to merge Island Tug and Vancouver Tug into a new corporate identity, Seaspan
    • 1972 Seaspan acquired FM Yorke & Sons Ltd.
    • 1973 Genstar obtained full ownership of Seaspan by purchasing Dillingham’s interest
    • 1977 Seaspan acquired Gulf of Georgia Towing
    • 1986 Imasco Ltd. acquired Genstar and gained controlling interest in Seaspan
    • 1986 Imasco sold Seaspan to McLuan Capital Group
    • 1991 Seaspan acquired Vancouver Drydock Company
  • 1992 – 1999

    1992 – 1999

    Seaspan’s Rise
    • 1992 CH Cates and Sons purchased by Dennis Washington
    • 1994 Vancouver Shipyards (Esquimalt) Ltd. (now Victoria Shipyards) was created at the Public Works and Government Services’ Esquimalt Graving Dock to fill the void left when Yarrows Shipyard Limited went bankrupt
    • 1994 Dennis Washington acquires a partial interest in Seaspan International Ltd. (now Seaspan ULC)
    • 1995 Dennis Washington acquires Norsk from Fletcher Challenge
    • 1996 Dennis Washington purchased the remaining shares in Seaspan and its subsidiaries to become 100% owner of the company
    • 1996 Seaspan acquires a 50 percent interest in Marine Petrobulk Limited
    • 1997 Kingcome Navigation acquired by Dennis Washington from MacMillan Bloedel
    • 1998 Dennis Washington purchased Seaspan Coastal Intermodal (now Seaspan Ferries) from Canadian Pacific
    • 1999 Cates, Seaforth, Norsk & Kingcome amalgamated to Seaspan
  • 2010 - 2016

    2010 – 2016

    Seaspan’s Growth
    • 2010 Seaspan acquires the tug and barge assets of SMIT Marine Canada
    • 2011 Seaspan Ferries acquires the business of Van Isle Barge Services Ltd.
    • 2011 The Government of Canada formed a $7.3B partnership with Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards to build future state-of-the-art Non-Combat vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard and Royal Canadian Navy under the National Shipbuilding Strategy.
    • 2012 Seaspan signs the NSS Umbrella Agreement with the Government of Canada making the new partnership official.
    • 2013 The Government of Canada announced that Vancouver Shipyards will build up to 10 additional large Non-Combat vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard under the National Shipbuilding Strategy, worth an estimated $3.3B.
    • 2015 Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards started construction on the first National Shipbuilding Strategy vessel, the Canadian Coast Guard’s Offshore Fisheries Science Vessel (OFSV).
    • 2015 Seaspan completed its $170M Shipyard Modernization Project
    • 2016 The Washington Companies acquired controlling interesting in Marine Petrobulk LP.
    • 2016 Vancouver Shipyards started construction on its second NSS vessel, the Canadian Coast Guard’s second OFSV.
    • 2016 Seaspan Celebrates Historical Milestone for the Royal Canadian Navy.
  • 2017 - Present

    2017 – Present

    Seaspan Today
    • 2017 Seaspan Ferries celebrates double commissioning of new Liquefied Natural Gas fuelled vessels
    • 2017 Seaspan Ferries celebrates official grand opening of new Duke Point Terminal
    • 2017 Seaspan Shipyards and the Government of Canada to celebrate the launch of the first vessel to be designed and built under Canada’s National Shipbuilding Strategy
    • 2018 Seaspan Shipyards opens new North Vancouver office building demonstrating its long-term commitment to build ships in Canada
    • 2018 Seaspan Shipyards celebrates handover of HMNZS Te Kaha
    • 2018 Seaspan Marine announces 5-year, multi-million dollar investment in marine training program
    • 2018 Seaspan Shipyards and shipbuilding partners celebrate start of construction on Canada’s Joint Support Ships
    • 2019 Seaspan Shipyards delivers two Offshore Fisheries Science Vessel, the CCGS Sir John Franklin and the CCGS Capt. Jacques Cartier, to Canadian Coast Guard 
    • 2019 Haisla Nation and Seaspan awarded LNG Canada escort and harbor tugs contract
    • 2020 Seaspan Shipyards delivers CCGS John Cabot, completing first class of ships under Canada’s National Shipbuilding Strategy
    • 2020 Seaspan Marine takes delivery of state-of-the-art Seaspan Raptor tug to service Vancouver market
    • 2021 The Government of Canada announces that Seaspan Shipyards will design and build a Polar Icebreaker, the flagship of the Canadian Coast Guard’s icebreaking fleet
    • 2021 Seaspan Shipyards celebrates 10th anniversary of building ships in Canada for Canada under the National Shipbuilding Strategy