PASCAGOULA — Colle Towing, which was founded in 1878 in Pascagoula, has changed ownership and is now Colle Maritime, a division of Signet Maritime Corporation, headquartered in Houston, Texas.
The change was announced this week at the Port of Pascagoula Board meeting where John Colle Jr., president of Colle Towing, was honored.
Colle, who will retire, will continue on for three years in an advisory role.
He said the company was founded by his great-grandfather, Capt. Herman Colle. The family’s first tug towed lumber-loaded schooners on the Pascagoula River, he said.
“Ever since then, the family has had tugboats here,” Colle said.
The business was incorporated in the 1940s, he said.
Colle Towing provides ship docking, marine transportation, vessel construction and repair.
Barry Snyder, president and chief executive officer of Signet Maritime, said transfer of Colle’s assets was completed June 16.
Snyder said he founded Signet in 1976 and is the sole stockholder.
Snyder said his recognition of Colle Towing goes back years and includes business deals prior to the acquisition.
“When I was a young man, back when I was sailing with Texaco, I was an officer on Texaco’s tankers. I actually came into the Chevron refinery on Texaco tankers and I noticed the Colle fleet. I always held them in high regard,” Snyder said.
“When I learned of the opportunity of Colle’s availability, we commenced a joint venture. John and I did a joint venture to proceed to acquire the (Gulf) LNG work, which was out for bid,” Snyder said.
In April, Signet and Colle announced a 20-year contract with Angola LNG Supply Services to provide tugs in Pascagoula.
Trinity Offshore of Gulfport is constructing the vessels.
In January, the two companies announced that Colle would build a $9.5-million tug for Signet.
“We intend to expand the operation by continuing to build new tugs and barges and to expand the shipyard to triple the amount of work they are currently doing,” Snyder said.
Snyder plans to expand the Pascagoula operation by adding 15 to 30 shipyard and marine service personnel this year.
The acquisition doubles the size of Signet and gives the company shipyard capability, he said.
Signet now has 28 tugs, five barges and employs 160 people.
The company has sites in Houston, Ingleside, Texas, Brownsville, Texas, Pascagoula, Morgan City, La., and Dubai, he said.
“We are a maritime transportation company,” Snyder said. “We move oil rigs, barges, we dock and undock ships. We do turnkey operations in the Far East, Middle East and West Africa. Our heavy concentration is the Gulf of Mexico. We are also involved in the transportation of oil and the transportation of heavy deck cargoes, which we use our heavy lift barges for.”
Colle said his company had nine tugboats, three push boats and about 80 employees.
Colle Towing started on the east bank of the Pascagoula River, and moved to its current site south of the U.S. 90 bridge on the west bank in 1986.
Operating the business has been rewarding, he said.
“The tugboat business is a very demanding and stressful business, but is very satisfying. We’ve got excellent people. In fact, I added up the other day, and I’ve got 14 people who have worked for us for over 20 years, which is a pretty good accomplishment.”
Snyder said he has moved to Pascagoula “to make sure I was present for the integration, which I think is terribly important. I’m very proud to be here.”
Mark McAndrews, port director, said, “Colle Towing has been such an important part of the port and its development, and we are really glad that they sold the company to Signet, which seems similar in philosophy and will continue to help the port grow and move forward. Signet has already repositioned additional assets over here and we think they are capable of helping the port grow and move forward.”