Meet Randy Kotka, the new port engineer for Foss in the Columbia-Snake River region (CSR).
By Bruce Sherman- This article first appeared in the April 2014 Issue of Towbitts, the official publication of Foss Maritime.
Kotka joined the Foss predecessor company in the CSR, Brix Maritime in 1992 as lead mechanic at the Rainier Shipyard, where Brix maintained its fleet. Previously, Kotka had worked since his senior year in high school as a mechanic at Sparks Northwest, a distributor of Twin Disk marine transmissions.
“My dad was a mechanic, so becoming one was a natural for me,” Kotka said recently. “I enjoyed it — enjoyed the challenge of troubleshooting and trying to figure out why something fails or doesn’t work.”
In the floating shop at the Rainier yard, Kotka rebuilt auxiliary engines and transmissions and performed other maintenance on ocean boats and boom boats. Foss acquired Brix in 1993, and Kotka moved to Portland as maintenance foreman in 1999.
He held that job until his recent promotion.
Kotka and his three-man crew, sometimes supplemented by Foss mechanics from California, have major projects to complete this year.
Among them are changing out the generators on the Pacific Escort, drydocking the P.J. Brix and bringing the two Tiger tugs, which Foss obtained from a company in Hawaii, up to Foss standards.
On one of them, the crew added a head and stateroom. The second will be a day boat. Other work on both included new electrical panels and wiring, adding framing under the decks to strengthen them and upgrading the winch brakes.
“Quite a bit had to be done — when we got them they didn’t even haveheat or windshield wipers,” Kotka said.
“The good news is that we’ve had good feedback from the crews. The tugs are agile and quick and pull indirect really well.”
In his free time, Kotka is a motorcycle enthusiast and last year made a 2,200-mile trip to Glacier National Park in Montana with his brother and brother-in-law.
“My wife would say I’m addicted to motorcycles,” he laughed.