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History Maritime History & Piracy

Workboats for the World

The Robert Allan Story

by (author) Robert G. Allan

with Peter A. Robson

Harbour Publishing Co. Ltd.
Initial publish date
Dec 2022
Maritime History & Piracy, Transportation, General
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Dec 2022
    List Price

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Along the West Coast waterfront and in ship-handling circles around the world, few names are more respected than that of Robert Allan Ltd., the marine architecture firm that has been based in Vancouver for nearly a century.

Founded in 1928 by the original Robert Allan, the firm got its start designing stealth speed boats used in rum running, classic fishing boats, small ferries and sumptuous yachts. Under Robert F. (Bob) Allan, the firm began transforming the coastal tug fleet from wood to steel and developed unique innovations such as self-loading/self-dumping log barges. Noted for the purposeful and handsome lines of their vessels and always at the forefront of developing marine technologies, the company pioneered a new generation of high-performance ship-assist and escort tugs in Vancouver Harbour under the direction of author Robert G. Allan, the last of his family to head the firm. These powerful and highly manoeuvrable vessels have taken the firm’s name around the world.

This book is about a company, about the family that built it, and about the many people whose efforts have helped to make Robert Allan Ltd. a Canadian success story in the global maritime world. It is also, of course, about the thousands of working vessels around the world which have been designed by the company over the better part of a century.

About the authors

Robert G. (Rob) Allan grew up in Vancouver and attended the University of British Columbia before training as a marine architect in Scotland. Having divested Robert Allan Ltd. to core employees, Rob is now retired and living in Vancouver with his wife Enneke.

Robert G. Allan's profile page

Peter A. Robson was born in Vancouver, British Columbia. He has spent much of his life crewing and skippering boats in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Caribbean and has worked as a tenderman in the BC salmon industry. He is a freelance writer, and former editor of Westcoast Fisherman. Robson has written and edited hundreds of articles on fishing and logging and is the author of the award-winning bestseller, The Working Forest of British Columbia.

Peter A. Robson's profile page


  • Winner, John Lyman Book Award in “Naval and Maritime Reference Works and Published Primary Sources”

Editorial Reviews

“Over the last 94 years, Robert Allan Ltd has built a global renowned brand for reliable and innovative design and PSA Marine is especially proud to have partnered Robert in the development of the Z-Tech tugs. We cherish our friendship with Robert.”

Peter Chew, Port of Singapore Authority

“Through grandfather, father, and son, the firm has evolved from designing vessels for British Columbia’s fishing industry and coastal ferries to becoming a global leader in tugboat design. Robert Allan Ltd is also a leader in the move to low carbon and zero-carbon emissions in the maritime environment, developing hybrid LNG/Diesel and battery-electric vessels.”

Alex Rueben, Executive Director, Association of British Columbia Marine Industries (ABCMI)

“I am proud to be a part of approximately one third of 94 years of Robert Allan Ltd History. At the time of press, we will be the builders of 300 Robert Allan Ltd designed tugboats and we hope this number to increase geometrically.”

Ali Gürün, Vice President of Sanmar Shipyards

“It has been a pleasure working with Robert Allan and his team over the years. I consider them as the “Pininfarina” of the naval architects for commercial working vessels, finding perfect balance between shape and function to suit the specific needs of their clients.”

Ard Jan Kooren, President & CEO KOTUG INTERNATIONAL B.V.

“Svitzer has worked closely with Robert Allan Ltd. (RAL) over the last decades. RAL has always based their designs on a solid technical foundation and with an open mind to make the design that fits the owner and operation best possible.”

Esben Grundtvig, Head of Projects and Engineering Support, Svitzer

Other titles by Peter A. Robson