The 1970s Our Beginnings
American Marine Corporation began as a start-up, commercial diving business in the early 1970s called American Divers. Three young men were the core of the initial creation and expansion of American Divers, which incorporated in 1975 to become American Divers, Inc., headquartered in Hawaii at a small dive shop adjacent to the Honolulu Harbor.
- Pat Wolter was born and raised in France, moved to Hawaii and started American Divers, the first formal diving company in Hawaii to provide general commercial diving services, with a focus on marine construction projects in Hawaii.
- Robert Shahnazarian had come to Hawaii from New Jersey on a University of Hawaii swimming scholarship. It was his passion for the ocean that caught Pat Wolter’s attention and eventually led him to become Captain of the Company’s Vessel Fleet.
- Scott Vuillemot, starting from a young age, had been involved in offshore federal funded infrastructure projects in the Hawaiian Islands and was engaged as a Commercial diver working for marine construction companies. This career eventually led him to American Divers.
American Workboats & The Clean Water Act
In 1972 a law known as the Federal Water Pollution Control Act was expanded and improved to become the Clean Water Act. It established the basic structure for regulating pollutant discharges into the waters of the United States and gave the EPA the authority to implement pollution control programs such as setting wastewater standards for industry. In Hawaii there were three primary ocean outfalls to be constructed as well as significant repair projects to existing systems.
This was good work for the ambitious and motivated American Divers Inc and eventually led to new opportunities in the Caribbean located at Puerto Rico and the West Coast of the United States. Larger marine construction companies had been pleased with the work of American Divers, Inc., and offered them work on multiple ocean outfall projects. These significant projects demanded a larger marine fleet so the three owners made the first of many trips to the Gulf of Mexico in search of the perfect vessels to match their growing needs. As a result of the fast expanding marine fleet, American Workboats was formed in 1979 to manage these assets.
American Divers successfully completed two large sewer outfall projects in Puerto Rico during 1979-1982 which eventually led the company to California and officially opened an office on July 4, 1982 when Bob arrived with our first tug American Spirit on a voyage from Puerto Rico to the Port of Los Angeles. We immediately started our first job, the construction of the Half Moon Bay Ocean Outfall. It was during this first year in California that the 100 year storms hit the west coast creating more work for our companies. American Workboats grew steadily between 1982 and 1989, fueled by several large projects in California, including construction of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, the San Rafael ocean outfall project and numerous pipeline construction projects in the Santa Barbra oil field. The West Coast was proving itself as a good market for these maturing businesses. As a result of the expanding marine construction support market, three primary tugs were added to the fleet. The American Contender, American Quest and American Emerald.
As stricter environmental regulations began to be implemented in the Marine industry, a decision was made to create an environmental arm to prosecute and support coastal spills and waterfront environmental needs. Pacific Environmental Corporation (PENCO) was formed to pursue these opportunities and compliment the existing marine operations.
The following decade was a time for great development of the companies, including an opportunity for permanent expansion in Alaska. The company recognized opportunities when the Exxon Valdez spill occurred in 1989 in Valdez, Alaska. Bob relocated to Valdez, AK and secured multiple contracts. A couple years later in 1993 a decision was made to secure a long term presence in the local market through the acquisition of equipment, vessels and personnel of an established marine group in that region.
The growth potential for the companies allowed the Owners to layout and plan the future of the company as well as to write a new business plan. The first step in that plan was establishment of an administrative arm to help the company manage and track growth, and provide customer service and support.
During the 1990s the Company added Tugs American Champion and the American Islander to its fleet and bought a local crew boat company in Los Angeles to provide crew boat services from its berth 270-271 facility. The crew boat division has grown with the addition of several crew boats up to 135’ in length. In 1990 with the proceeds from the Valdez job we bought the equipment and barge to build our first crane barge in Hawaii to assist in the growth of our construction division.
With the company growing rapidly and now operating regional offices in Alaska, California, and Hawaii the Owners realized the need to realign all the various business lines under one umbrella. American Marine Services Group (AMSG) was developed as a reference to the overall organization. American Divers, Inc., was renamed to become American Marine Corporation which included our construction division and vessel operations. PENCO remained a separate company under the same umbrella. American Workboats Inc. became our equipment holding company.
During this decade, AMC acquired 2 additional tugs, the American Challenger and American Patriot and deck barge AWB-240 along with the AMC 160 Crane Barge and other cranes and deck barges to support the growing marine construction business while PENCO purchased a fleet of Vacuum trucks, pumps and oil spill equipment.
Today, AMSG focuses on specialty marine construction projects, marine salvage, commercial diving, marine transportation services, ocean & inland towing, work vessel support, crew boat operations, and vessel inspection and repair services. The environmental arm under PENCO has developed into a nationally recognized group of professionals. Although the AMSG offices are in the Pacific region, the company performs work routinely on the Gulf and East Coasts, North Slope Alaska, Central America, and internationally. Offices in Honolulu, Anchorage, and Los Angeles are staffed with local personnel who have spent the majority of their careers in those regions offering a solid basis of local knowledge.
Excellence in Operations
American Marine Services Group and its operating companies American Marne Corporation, Pacific Environmental Corporation, and American Workboats owe their growth to a personal and professional philosophy summarized by these words,
“Excellence in Operations”.