A Long-Held Dream
Scott Bravener, Lower Lakes President, CEO and a founding partner of the company, realized early in his sailing career that customer shipping needs were evolving and the big shipping companies were not responding to those changes. Customers needed smaller vessels, “river-class” self-unloaders, which were then in short supply. Scott realized the niche market of customers and began working on a business plan with childhood and college friends.
10 Guys, 1 Boat, 1 Dream
10 guys, 1 boat, 1 dream began with a search for “the ship”. They experienced a number of disappointments, including being turned down for financing, even though they had lined up business for the ship. In the early 90’s, the team of ten finalized their first purchase, a tug and barge to haul sand and stone to various Great Lakes ports.
In 1995, they purchased their first self-unloader. For the next 2 ½ months the team of ten made changes to bring it up to Canadian new-vessel standards, and in mid-November this ship made its maiden voyage for Lower Lakes, sailing as the Cuyahoga with Captain Scott Bravener at the helm.
Against all Odds
Lower Lakes Towing was pegged to fail within its first year of operation. Over the past two decades, through wise asset management, perseverance and a commitment to do things better, Lower Lakes Towing Ltd challenged the status quo and we now play an integral role in the Great Lakes shipping industry today.
While other companies were downsizing their fleets and exiting the river class segment of the market, Lower Lakes was picking up the slack by continuously expanding its services.
At a time when competitors were reaffirming their corporate structure, Lower Lakes was building upon a family based foundation. As the company started with family members, and childhood and college friends, Lower Lakes has always advocated a family culture. Having these team members as our leaders, humanizes the workplace, creates a team-work environment where camaraderie means having each other’s back and celebrating opportunities. Our management team and our employees have successfully established a foundation of trust and a cultural promise to perform with purpose and the healthier whole in mind. This extends to our long standing relationships with customers, allowing us to maintain meaningful connections and becoming a valuable resource to one another. In the end, it’s about leadership and the ability to manage the moving parts and sustain momentum.
Finding the Sweet Spot
Although a family culture is a big part of our success, some of the story of the success of Lower Lakes Towing is our ships. Many of them are steeped in colorful histories of their own. Our very first ship, the Cuyahoga, was rescued from a ship graveyard and brought back to life under the Lower Lakes flag. We use our crew more efficiently through automation of our engine rooms and fire systems. This allows us to be the most cost-effective operator of river class vessels on the Great Lakes.
Underdog on Top
In 2006, Lower Lakes was acquired by Rand Logistics. This access to capital has enabled us to continue our growth trajectory. We have become the single largest provider of river class transportation on the Great Lakes. Our ships, the majority of which are river-class, can easily access ports of call that many of the larger self-unloading transports cannot. “We can go where the big ships go and also where they can’t!”
In our 20 years of operation, a few things have stayed consistent, our professional management team, our long-standing industry relationships and our well maintained fleet – all together providing considerable competitive advantages. This company is about perseverance, and Lower Lakes has thrived as it enters into a new chapter in its proud history.