Innovation and Diversity

in Marine Design

A Rich Heritage

For many years we have declared that the origins of Robert Allan Ltd began in 1930 when my grandfather, Robert Allan, entered private practise as a consulting naval architect. That date is something which I had always heard in the family lore, and I had no reason to question it. However in researching the business archives for much of the past year some facts came to light that indicate his business actually began in 1928. A few artifacts identify the actual beginnings including an entry from the The West Van News in October 1927, describing a brief partnership between Robert Allan and George Stackhouse after his employment with Wallace Shipyards since 1920. Harbour & Shipping magazine provides two clues including a modest advertisement in the March 1929 edition, confirming his independence and notes in the December 1928 edition describing two power cruisers designed by Robert Allan for local businessmen, with no mention of the partnership. Accordingly we will be amending all our corporate literature to reflect the earlier genesis, and move the planning for our centennial celebrations ahead two years!


Robert Allan commenced private practice as a consulting Naval Architect after serving as Technical Manager of a local major shipyard. A 1907 graduate naval architect from the University of Glasgow, he was responsible for numerous enduring designs produced for the growing British Columbia fishing fleet and coastal ferry services, among others. His reputation for quality designs was enhanced by the notable, classic ocean-going motor yachts Meander (1934) and Fifer (1939), both of which are still in active service on the Pacific Coast.

Robert F. (Bob) Allan joined his father in the practice in 1945. The business grew steadily and was instrumental in the development of specialized tugs and barges for the burgeoning forestry and mining industries along the B.C. coast, and for many unique shallow-draft vessels for Canada’s remote Northland. Incorporated as Robert Allan Ltd. in 1962, the company continued to expand and achieved international recognition for the high standards and performance of its many unique and specialized designs.

In 1973, Robert G. (Rob) Allan joined the company, following the family tradition. In 1981 he succeeded his father as President, leading the company into a new generation of computer-based design technology. The expanding firm created a wide range of distinctive designs including modern high-performance ship-assist and escort tugs, icebreakers, government service vessels, and high speed craft. With significant growth since the mid 1990’s the firm has established itself as an international force in commercial working craft design. A staff of highly qualified Professional Engineers, Naval Architects, Marine Engineers, Technologists and Designers handle a wide variety of projects for an international clientele. Today, a vessel is built to one of our designs somewhere in the world almost every week.

To see examples of the diverse types of vessels created by our design team, see Designs. For more on our company, see Our Commitments. We also encourage feedback from all of our vessel users.