ACBL Dedicates Refurbed Mv. Paul Brotzge

By Jeff L. Yates

June 12, 2017

The mv. Paul Brotzge, built at Jeffboat in 1974, was previously named W.A. Kernan.
(Photo by Jeff L. Yates)

On May 25, American Commercial Barge Line (ACBL) rededicated another veteran towboat at the Jeffboat yard in Jeffersonville, Ind.

The virtually new Paul Brotzge returned to service recently following a months-long layup for complete refurbishment from inside out. The former 5,600 hp. towboat was gutted down to bare steel for replacement of almost every component, including air-conditioning and heating systems, windows, crew’s quarters, galley and pilothouse, along with extensive engineroom equipment and steering system updates. The boat now boasts 6,150 hp. with the engines being upgraded to GM 16-645E7 specifications.

The work was done at James Marine in Paducah, where several ACBL vessels have received similar treatments.

Built at Jeffboat for ACBL in 1974 as the W.A. Kernan, it is one of eight 145- by 48-foot vessels in a group of 5,000 hp. boats that were built 25 feet shorter than the previous series of 170-foot boats already in service. By operating the shorter towboat, the barge line was able to move more barges through the existing 600-foot locks that remained in operation at the time, allowing each tow to handle up to 6 percent more cargo per trip. The design went on to become a very popular and reliable asset in many towing company fleets; many of the boats are still operating today.

Vessel Namesake

The vessel was renamed in honor of veteran ACBL-Jeffboat alumnus, Paul Brotzge, who began his association with the company as an operations analyst in 1980. He was promoted to manager in 1985, and in 1992, was named assistant treasurer. In these roles, he was instrumental in the company’s expansion and acquisitions of Sioux City & New Orleans Barge Line, Hines American Lines, Mississippi Valley Barge Line, Conti-Carriers, National Marine Service and other groups of barges from various owners.

He became vice president and treasurer in 2000 and during his tenure in that position, he led the successful consolidation of several ACBL companies, including ACBL Argentina, ACBL de Venezuela and Global Material Services into the Danielson Holding Corporation and their affiliated entities. In 2006, he joined the corporate strategy group and participated in the successful disposition of ACBL de Venezuela shortly before the company was nationalized. Brotzge has been Jeffboat’s controller since 2009, and in 2012 took on the role of director of supply chain for the manufacturing division.

In his welcoming remarks, Mike Poindexter, Jeffboat vice president and general manager, said that when he transferred to Jeffboat from ACBL last December, he quickly realized Brotzge’s insight and forward thinking was valuable to the success of the company team, and Poindexter quickly learned to rely on his counsel and experience. “Paul has taken time to help educate and coach me along the way and I appreciate his patience. At times he has to exhibit a lot of patience with me,” he remarked. “What a great teammate. He is a great asset to the team!”

The invocation and blessing of the boat and crew were performed by Seamen’s Church Institute chaplain John B. Fritschner. Joining him for the presentation of the official ship’s Bible to Capt. Paul Roos was fellow chaplain, David Guilfoyle. They then presented a new Merchant Marine flag to deckhand Jamie Waddington and senior lead man (mate), Justin Haddock.

Prior to presenting Capt. Roos with a new U.S. flag, Capt. Michael B. Zamperini, commander of Coast Guard Sector Ohio Valley, said since assuming his current role a little less than a year ago, he has come to really appreciate the inland waterways transportation system. Recounting the transition from flat boats to steamboats to the current barge and modern diesel towboat, he declared, “It’s an amazing system.” He went on to say it has been a pleasure to work with stakeholders such as ACBL, who are as committed to maintaining the cleanliness and safety of the inland waterways as is the Coast Guard. “Placement of this flag on the towboat shows ACBL’s and the crew’s commitment to freedom and democracy.”

James Masters, ACBL vice president-vessel operations, complimented the crew for their hard work and dedication to getting the boat painted and polished in preparation for the open house tours prior to the ceremonies.

“The boat looks immaculate and I know a lot of hard work went into that,” Masters said. He then called attention to a green flag with a number 7 on one of the vessel’s push knees near an ACBL bow pennant. “There’s a meaning behind that green flag,” he continued. “That represents seven years of injury free operation, and that tells you the kind of individuals and teammates we have who navigate these rivers, build these tows, day in and day out. … And they do it safely,” he noted, asking for a round of applause in appreciation.

Prior to presenting a new ACBL company flag to Roos, Masters said the presentation of the company colors at a boat dedication is a long held tradition, symbolic with both change and a new beginning. “At the same time, we hold dear those values that have built this great company and will remain unchanged; mutual care, personal responsibility, agility, teamwork and high involvement. Paul Brotzge embodies each of these values and I have been fortunate to work with him in various capacities for over a decade.”

He then called Kathy Brotzge forward to accept a large attractive vase etched with the dedication date and likeness of the boat.

“I’m so very much honored by this. It’s overwhelming,” the honoree began as he addressed family, friends and fellow Jeffboat and ACBL teammates during his remarks. He recalled the first towboat christening event that he attended only two months after beginning his ACBL career in 1980, when the Robert Greene and J. Robert Hard were officially welcomed into the fleet.

“I was so impressed,” he said, adding that prior to joining ACBL, a bank had made him a job offer but he instead chose the barge line. During the two-boat christening celebration, he was even more convinced he had made the right decision, he noted. “And obviously, I did because now I have a boat named after me and they probably would have never named a bank after me,” he quipped.

Recounting all the various assignments, responsibilities and titles he garnered during his 37-year career with the ACBL/Jeffboat team, Brotzge said, “I’m a really lucky finance guy. I‘ve gotten to do so many different things in my career and have learned so much and met so many people. The best of everything I’ve experienced at the company is all the people I’ve met. I have nothing but pleasurable and wonderful memories.”

On board for the dedication event were Roos, captain; Brent Cox, pilot; Davion Nelson, steersman; Greg Lewis, chief engineer; Haddock, senior leadman; Joshua Longshore, endorsed leadman and deckhands, Johnathon Taylor, Waddington and Seth Johnson. Jerry Wooten, senior cook, was in charge of the galley.

Although the rainy and windy weather cleared off in time for the ceremonies, the champagne bottle was not so cooperative, and it took six hard swings before Mrs. Brotzge managed to explode its contents across the bow as onlookers applauded and celebrated the eventually successful swing.

Following the festivities, the family and attendees gathered at the Howard Steamboat Museum for a catered picnic dinner beneath a giant, air-conditioned tent.