One-Boat Operation Sells Ahead Of Sub M

Capt. Wayne Dufrene has worked on the rivers for more than 40 years after obtaining his captain’s license at 19. He and his father purchased a new towboat from the now defunct Omni Fabricators, Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1980, and ran a one-vessel operation until Dufrene bought his father out of the company, B&R Towing, in 1992.

He renamed the towboat the Miss Kim after his wife and business partner. “I was content being a one-boat owner and operator,” said Dufrene, who ran dry cargo from Houston, Texas, to New Orleans and Baton Rouge, La., and later did some fleeting work for Cooper T. Smith.

It wasn’t until around 2005 that Dufrene began hearing about Subchapter M and how it could impact his small operation. “I started going to seminars to learn all about Subchapter M,” said Dufrene, who joined The American Waterway Operators in 2009 to take advantage of their Subchapter M help. “They helped me with paperwork and the Responsible Carrier Program stuff to prepare for Sub M.”

Despite the help he was getting to prepare his company for the impending passage of Subchapter M, which is slated to come into full effect on July 20, 2018, Dufrene said he was faced with some difficult choices.

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“I began weighing my options and considering all of the nightmares some boat owners were going through at shipyards in preparation for Subchapter M,” he said. “With just one boat and a small operation, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to make upgrades to my old boat was a big undertaking.”

For Dufrene, it wasn’t just Subchapter M that finally led to his decision to sell his operation to American Tugs last year. “There’s so much consolidation going on with big companies taking business from us mom-and-pop shops since they can make better offers and have larger fleets,” he said. “So, with less business and being faced with large shipyard bills due to Subchapter M requirements, I decided to sell and semi-retire.”

And that’s what he did. Dufrene continues to run small trips for fleets in the Burnside, La., area. “It’s possible that the Miss Kim would have met Subchapter M requirements without too much extra work, but as a one-boat owner, I couldn’t really afford to continue operating. It’s the only career I ever had, so it’s been with mixed emotions that I arrived to my decision to sell my boat.”