The early development of what is now ITB can be traced back to 1958 with cable-laying operations in B.C.’s Gulf Islands under the direction of Capt. Fred Lewis. In an effort to arrange telephone communication between islands, Lewis and his neighbors deployed salvaged BC Tel cables with such proficiency that BC Tel enlisted their services. This would subsequently lead to a relationship with BC Hydro. In 1962 Peter Shields purchased the business assets of Coal Island Ltd. from his father-in-law Capt. Lewis’ estate and continued to operate and expand the business to include other operations.
Having left his family’s construction business in the early 1960s, Peter Shields, a civil engineer, began developing properties that were principally situated in the Gulf Islands of British Columbia. Disappointed with unpredictable and inadequate barge service, Shields purchased his own tug and barge in 1964 and somewhat accidentally ended up in the towboat business. The following year Shields Navigation Ltd. was created to take over marine operations with Coal Island Ltd. remaining as the parent company.
Peter’s son, Bob Shields, began spending his summers working on the tugs at age 14. By the time Bob graduated from The University of Victoria with a BA in Economics, he had clocked enough hours to write his Mate’s ticket, and soon after, his Master’s. In 1987 Captain Bob Shields transitioned into office life where the experience he had garnered at sea proved invaluable; providing him with a first-hand understanding and a well-founded sense of how to move forward and develop company interests. Peter, who had purchased Seaspan in 1986, became occupied with its management and so entrusted Bob to run what was then Shields Navigation and Standard Towing. With an upgraded fleet intended to increase presence in the bulk oil trade, business expanded rapidly, a success founded principally on the abilities of those involved.
During the late 1970s, oil businesses sought to increase control of their transportation requirements, with several companies constructing their own oil tankers to be managed by third parties such as Shields Navigation. During this time, Shields built and acquired barges, deck barges, and a log barge. By 1990 Shields Navigation was transporting a sizeable amount of the materials on the West Coast. By the early ‘90s, on the heels of the Exxon Valdez disaster, oil companies determined that retaining shipping assets was no longer in their best interests leading to Shields Navigation having the opportunity to acquire a number of vessels. Shields created a new company, International Tug and Barge, to be the primary entity for owning and managing the oil transportation fleet. ITB established contracts encompassing shipping operations from South East Alaska to Puget Sound. With a sizable commitment to the acquisition of new equipment, the stage was set for the primary role that ITB would play in the tug and barge and oil transport industry.
In the mid 1990s, ITB was firmly positioned in a business which was demanding double-hulled oil transportation vessels. Any company intending to thrive in oil transport had to seriously consider replacing aging single hulled equipment. Headed to China to scout for potential shipyards, Shields contacted sponsor companies to gauge their interest in double-hulled barges. A primary sponsor expressed interest, and having toured China, a design was sketched, and soon finalized. A ship building contract was signed a month later in China which would involve two double-hulled barges, setting a precedent for the introduction of a new piece of equipment approximately every two years. With a strong culture of innovation, ITB seeks to take an active role in, and continually elevate its standard of the design and construction of its equipment.
With a number of separate marine companies now operating, including International Tug and Barge, Standard Towing, Seatow Marine, Island Tug and Barge and Shields Navigation, administrative work was proving difficult to manage and brand recognition was becoming confusing. In the late ‘90s Shields began to join the companies together with the final merger occurring between Shields Navigation and Island Tug and Barge in 2000 leaving the single entity, Island Tug and Barge Ltd. ITB could now reinforce its identity as a business.
With the passing of Peter Shields in the fall of 2008, Bob Shields had to refocus attention to other family businesses necessitating a change in the management structures and operations at ITB. While management was being changed, growth continued, including an expansion of ITB’s position in the subsea construction sector with the addition of Canpac Divers and new support vessels such as a dynamically positioned cable layer, survey vessel and deep diving submersible vehicles.
ITB had been developing interests in the Arctic since 2001 with the purchase of the iced-classed Island Tugger and the construction of an ice-classed ocean going tanker vessel in 2003. Annual voyages to the Canadian Arctic began in 2005 and in 2012, a newly retrofitted and ice strengthened Cindy Mozel together with the Island Tugger and tank barge ITB Supplier, Island Tugger and oil spill response barge ITB 503, ITB set out to establish a new base in Tuktoyaktuk. In the following year, ITB designed, built and delivered four new double-hulled tank barges from China to join the fleet in Tuktoyaktuk which became the first modern double hulled barges to commence operations on the McKenzie River.
With operations spread across such diverse regions, ITB Marine Group was created to allow each business to run separately, with accordingly divided management teams, while remaining coherent and related to one another. ITB Marine Group is comprised of ITB Subsea (whose activities are below the surface with submarine cable installation and repair), ITB North (covering all operations in the Arctic) and Island Tug and Barge (operating in the West Coast). Today, the main focus of operations concentrates on bulk fuel delivery, underwater cable installations, general towing, and barge services.
The Name ‘ITB’
The roots of the name Island Tug and Barge go back almost ninety years. The company began in 1935 under the leadership of Harold B. Elworthy with the tug, Island Planet. Island Tug grew rapidly with the acquisition of Gardner Towing in 1926, Young and Gore Towing in 1953, Victoria Tug in 1958 and Griffiths Steamship Company in 1961. After a ten-year association with McAllister Towing Ltd. of Montreal, Island Tug joined with Vancouver Tug to form what is now Seaspan International Ltd. The name Island Tug and Barge Ltd. remained an asset of Seaspan from 1970 until purchased by the Shields family in 1993.
- 1958 Capt. Fred Lewis begins laying submarine cable on board the MV Coal Island and Coal Island No. 10
- 1962 Peter Shields purchases the business assets of Coal Island Ltd.
- 1965 Shields Navigation Ltd is created with Coal Island Ltd. acting as the parent company
- 1970 Through a merger between Vancouver Tug Boat Co. and Island Tug and Barge Ltd. Seaspan International Ltd. is formed.
- 1981 Standard Towing Ltd. formed under Coal Island Ltd.
- 1983 Largest cable job to date with 16 x 135 kv hydro cables on 4 crossings for State of Alaska Tyee Dam power project
- 1986 Peter Shields acquires controlling interest of Seaspan and Vancouver Shipyards from Amasco in partnership with 3 other investors, Shields assumes the role of chairman of the company’s board of directors.
- 1987 Bob Shields takes the helm at Shields Navigation
- Bob Shields starts Seatow Marine with the Island Warrior and Georgia Transporter
- Bob Shields starts International Tug and Barge Ltd. (ITB) and begins acquiring large bulk petroleum barges
- 1993 Coal Island Ltd. purchases the name Island Tug and Barge Ltd. from Seaspan and restarts the company.
- 1996 Seaspan purchased by Dennis Washington
- 1999 ITB builds the first double-hulled barge in Western Canada, the ITB Vancouver
- 2000 Island Tug and Barge Ltd. is merged with Shields Navigation, International Tug and Barge Ltd., Seatow and Standard Towing under the name Island Tug and Barge Ltd.
- ITB receives the Legacy Award for Oil Spill prevention, Preparedness, and Response
- ITB is issued an International Safety Management (ISM) Document of Compliance of Lloyds Register
- ITB becomes the first Canadian tug and barge company to be awarded the Exceptional Compliance Program Award (ECOPRO) from the Washington State Department of Ecology for excellence in marine safety and environmental stewardship
- ITB makes its first delivery to Canadian Arctic with ATB Island Trader
- Peter Shields is recognized by the council of Marine Carriers as the third recipient of the West Coast Towboat Legacy Award
- ITB develops a Strategic plan focused on endeavors in the Arctic. Involves the commissioning of two identical oil barges (affectionately dubbed: The Twins) and a double hulled arctic barge
- 2009 Following the passing of Peter Shields in November of the past year, his son Bob Shields takes over Coal Island Ltd.
- 2010 ITB begins to expand the submarine and cable-laying business, forming a relationship with Canpac Divers
- 2012 ITB purchases Canpac Divers and renames it ITB Subsea
- 2013 ITB Marine Group (composed of ITB Subsea, ITB North, ITB Fuels, and Island Tug and Barge) is created to manage diversity of regions of operation.
- 2014 Island Tug moves its office from Roger Street in Vancouver to the shipyard at Berry Point, Burnaby
- 2014 Bob Shields announces Hans De Visser as the new President of ITB Marine Group