Diversity key to survival for hard-working maritime business

"We're the best hidden business in the harbor," said Capt. Ed Montgomery of Sea Service, which provides a host of maritime-related services in the Twin Ports.

"We're the best hidden business in the harbor," said Capt. Ed Montgomery of Sea Service, which provides a host of maritime-related services in the Twin Ports.

Montgomery owns the business with his wife, Jeanne Montgomery, who serves as vice president and controller. Since 1984, the business has grown steadily, and today, it employs 16 to 22 people depending on the time of year.

In addition to providing pilot boat service in both the Twin Ports and in Chicago for Western Great Lakes Pilots Association, (see accompanying story) the company also provides marine transportation and ship services, including mail, provisions, supplies and crew changes to about 250 vessels a year in the Twin Ports.

Sea Service also responds when Northland recreational boaters needassistance or towing services.

The company owns a fleet of vessels, including the tug boat, "Sea Colt," and several barges that perform marine construction, light dredging, dock improvement and environmental clean up. Its customers include the U.S. Navy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Coast Guard and several other companies and agencies.


Montgomery is also a certified marine surveyor and provides marine inspections under the umbrella of his related company, Northern Seas Associates, Inc.

The Montgomerys also have the exclusive license to collect garbage from foreign vessels in the port, as well as from any foreign aircraft landing at Duluth International Airport. Its Foreign Aircraft and Vessel Onshore Refuse facility is able to sterilize large volumes of trash taken from ships or aircraft through an efficient steam plant located on the waterfront. The U.S. Department of Agriculture requires garbage taken off a foreign vessel or ship be sanitized prior to coming into a landfill.

Sea Service runs community programs, "Captains for Kids" and "Deckhand for a Day" to familiarize local youth with local maritime heritage through educational outings for the YMCA, the YWCA, Boys & Girls Club, Big Brothers and Big Sisters and other organizations.

Continually looking to expand into new markets, the company is exploring the possibility of providing drinking water to ships and transporting a new iron ore product from the North Shore to Duluth.

Montgomery is quick to give credit to his wife and his employees for helping to build Sea Service into a diverse business capable of surviving in the cyclical and often tumultuous maritime industry.

"We wear a lot of hats, but in this business, that is the key to survival," Montgomery said.

Fun Facts

When not working on their marine interests, the Montgomerys are meticulously restoring their turn-of-the-century Victorian home in Superior, which houses their business offices as well. The home's former owner, Capt. Charles Barker, was also in the maritime business and was responsible for the island of dredge spoils that bears his name in Superior. While working on the home, the Montgomerys found the Barker's marriage license and were surprised to learn the Barkers had been married on April 9, 1891. The Montgomerys were married on April 9, 1994.

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