Marine Industry // The Callais Family

by Kathleen Rodrigue, features editor

Louisiana’s coastal residents are no strangers to water, which naturally leads many into the marine industry for careers. Ronald Callais, retired president of Allied Shipyard, is no exception.

“I grew up with water all around me, so it has been involved in several aspects of my life. It’s in our blood,” Callais says.

He says his vast experience with boats growing up is what naturally led him to the profession. Callais has been involved in the boat business since he spent his summers shrimping as a teenager.

Callais says his father, Abdon Callais, was the first person to really expose him to the maritime industry. His father, after pushing barges for Schlumberger, started his own boat business called Abdon Callais Offshore in the early 1950s. Working for his father, Ronald was the support captain, which required him to do crew changes and repairs. Then in the late 1950s, Ronald and his older brother, Harold Callais, bought their father’s business.

Later on, the brothers sold the two boats and bought Lafourche Shipyard, previously known as Cajun Shipyard. Four years later, the pair bought Allied Shipyard from Ronald’s father-in-law. They then merged the two companies in 1987 and kept the name Allied Shipyard. During the following decade, the pair grew their company from just repairing boats to building them.

In between building the boat businesses, Ronald also ran his own accounting firm, co-owned Callais Cable Vision and graduated from Nicholls State University with a degree in accounting.

However, as time went on and the businesses grew, Ronald began noticing he wasn’t devoting enough time to his family. While his brother wanted to continue building and buying boats, Ronald was not interested in expanding. So, he and his brother dissolved their partnerships in 1995. Ronald kept Allied Shipyard, and Harold went on to operating boats serving the oil and gas markets with his company, Abdon Callais Offshore.

Gavin Callais, Ronald’s son and now president of Allied Shipyard, says he remembers going on boat rides to do crew changes in the middle of the night, visiting docks and bringing boats to the shipyard. From these experiences, he says he was able to learn the business and meet various people within the industry, which ultimately helps him in his job now. Gavin’s brother Bruce also works at Allied Shipyard as the Vice President, and his other brother Lee is the lawyer for the shipyard.

Tony Boudreaux, vice president of operations for Allied Shipyard for 10 years, says he enjoys working for the family business because he feels like he is a part of the decisions.

“When you work for a family-owned business, you sit around the table with the top guy, middle guy, and the bottom guy to get input and solve the problem,” he says. “That’s not how it works in a corporate structure.”

And Boudreaux says the Callais family shares his value in family, which allows him to spend more time with his wife and two daughters.

Ronald, though retired, still works at Allied Shipyard in an advising capacity while his sons run the business. He is also the current president of the South Lafourche Levee District where he has been on the board for 31 years, advising the building and maintaining levee systems.
Ronald says he loved being involved in the marine industry and was happy to pass the tradition along to his children.

“It has been a very enjoyable life working in the marine business,” says Ronald. “My kids are doing a great job running the company.”