Michael O’Shea: ‘I’ve really been blessed in my life. My only wish would have been to have my mom along for the ride.’
Not long after Michael O’Shea was born, his mother was diagnosed with cancer.
“There was never a time growing up when she wasn’t fighting with that disease,” he explained.
Born in Coos Bay, a deep-water port city on the southern Oregon coast, O’Shea’s father was a contract logger and worked for all the major timber companies in the area. When his father was on the job during the week, the family stayed in a nearby trailer they towed back to their home in Empire, Oregon, over the weekend.
“And I’d stay with my grandparents in Empire when my folks would travel to the West Coast and east to Texas to source treatment for my mom,” he said. “None of it worked, though, and she passed away when I was seven. I was devastated.”
So, too, was O’Shea’s father, both emotionally and financially. He sold his company, airplanes, and equipment to pay off debt accrued during his mother’s illness. In 1961, O’Shea said his father took a seasonal job for the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line’s resupply operator to pay off the last of his debts. The DEW Line was a system of radar stations in the northern Arctic region of Canada, the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Iceland. It was set up to detect incoming Soviet bombers during the Cold War and provide early warning of invasion.
“That’s where my connection to Alaska started,” said O’Shea. “My dad managed to turn a single season into a 33-year career.”
“Our footprint expanded in 2019 with the acquisition of the Crowley Maritime assets in Prudhoe Bay. We set up the North Slope Group that summer and operated two tug and barge sets supporting the energy sector and local customers. I was named Vice President in 2021 and continue to market the CITB brand and business support throughout the state of Alaska.”
The DEW Line
O’Shea’s father eventually remarried, and the family moved to Vancouver, Washington. Growing up around heavy machinery, he said he’d always imagined a career selling heavy equipment—though his first job was picking Blue Lake Green Beans for Vincent Erickson Farms when he was 12.
“I had to meet the farm bus at 5:30 in the morning and pick beans until 1 p.m. when the bus would drop us back off in the neighborhood,” he laughed. “Every time I see a can of Del Monte Green Beans, I think of that season. Then, when I was 13, I picked cucumbers for Winsel Farms. I’d leave the house at 5:30 and ride my bike the four miles to the fields. Picking was over around 1 p.m., so I’d ride my bike home and mow lawns in the afternoon. Starting when I was 14, my dad took me to Alaska during the summers to work the DEW Line operation. I guess he didn’t worry much about the child labor laws—I worked the same hours as the crew for free. That’s where I learned my work ethic.”
O’Shea graduated from Columbia River High School and went straight to work for Alaska Barge and Transport.
“My career started after high school, working the DEW Line deliveries for five months out of the year and repairing equipment during the off months.”
At the end of the 1975 season, O’Shea left to fulfill his childhood dream of selling heavy equipment and heavy-duty trucks but said the economy took a turn for the worse during the Carter administration. High inflation ground sales to a halt.
“So, I went to work for Crowley, who’d bought Alaska Barge. My career with Crowley spanned 33 years.”
A “late bloomer” when it came to college, O’Shea also decided to go back to school during his Crowley years, beginning his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration when he was 40 years old, attending class at night and over the weekend as his work schedule allowed.
“I received my degree in seven-and-a-half years and finished my MBA in another two-and-a-half years, both at City University of Seattle.”
The right equipment for the job
O’Shea left Crowley in 2007 for an opportunity at Foss Maritime, covering the energy sector in Alaska and Australia. In 2009, he began a temporary assignment at Delta Western before joining WorleyParsons in 2011 as Sealift Manager for the ExxonMobil Point Thomson Project. O’Shea’s career at Cook Inlet Tug & Barge (CITB) began in April 2018 when he was hired as Senior Director of Planning and Business Development.
“My responsibilities here include maintaining the existing business in Anchorage and Seward and exploring new opportunities that fit the CITB business model. Our footprint expanded in 2019 with the acquisition of the Crowley Maritime assets in Prudhoe Bay. We set up the North Slope Group that summer and operated two tug and barge sets supporting the energy sector and local customers. I was named Vice President in 2021 and continue to market the CITB brand and business support throughout the state of Alaska.”
O’Shea said he most enjoys working with his“incredible” team and supporting Saltchuk sister companies, including Carlile Transportation, Foss, Northern Air Cargo, and TOTE, in a consulting capacity. During the next five years, he believes CITB will be able to substantially increase its business in Cook Inlet and the North Slope in support of the energy sector, propelling CITB into the role of the leading ship-assist company in Alaska. His most recent challenge: Sub Chapter M.
“The new regulatory world of Sub Chapter M requiring vessel inspections and dry-docking schedules has the tugs out of service for extended periods. This has a tremendous impact on customer service, leaving us without a fourth tug to cover the business in Anchorage and Cook Inlet.”
O’Shea said that, professionally, he’s most proud of his reputation in the industry.
“Customers know my ethics are solid, and they know they can count on me to give them the right equipment for the job. Family wise, I’m extremely proud of my bride Darlene for standing by my side. And my four daughters and granddaughter for being great citizens and super girls with great work ethics.”
Looking back over 54 years, he said he couldn’t believe how fast the time went.
“And I can’t believe I got the chance to work with all the fantastic folks I’ve worked with over the years.”
He does his best to pay it forward—even in the smallest ways.
“Every Friday, I wear a Hawaiian shirt to celebrate Aloha Friday. It’s a real hit in Alaska during the winter,” he laughed. “I’ve really been blessed in my life. My only wish would have been to have my mom along for the ride.”