Canal Barge Growing Fleet With Trio Of New Towboats

Canal Barge Company (CBC), a New Orleans-based marine transportation company founded in 1933, is adding three new towboats to its fleet that already numbers 48 vessels strong, including its subsidiary fleets at Illinois Marine Towing and Pelican Marine Services. The company will soon take delivery of a 6,000 hp. towing vessel from Conrad Industries’ Amelia, La., shipyard. Steiner Construction in Bayou La Batre, Ala., is building a pair of 4,400 hp. towboats for Canal Barge, with both due out next year.

“These new-construction projects represent the first upriver line haul service towboats to be constructed by CBC in several decades,” said Mike Stone, who oversees new construction for Canal Barge. “With measured planning and adaptation of CBC’s preferences and culture, these new assets will integrate well into the system. Crews and shore-based personnel are all excited.”

The forthcoming 6,000 hp. towboat, designed by New Orleans-based naval architecture firm MiNO Marine, will be named the mv. H. Merritt “Heavy” Lane Jr. The EPA Tier IV-compliant vessel features a pair of EMD 12ME23 main engines from Marine Systems Inc. that will drive Reintjes WAF 4545H gears from Karl Senner LLC. Texas Wheel Works supplied the vessel’s Sound five-blade stainless steel propellers (110-inch diameter and 112-inch pitch). The vessel will be equipped with kort nozzles from Rice. The “Heavy Lane” will measure 166 feet by 48 feet with a moulded depth of 12 feet and a fuel capacity of 130,000 gallons.

The “Heavy Lane” is named for the late Harry Merritt Lane Jr., father of Canal Barge Company executives David and Merritt Lane, who served as a key executive for the company until 1985. In his 24 years with the company, “Heavy” served in the roles of vice president, treasurer and a member of the board of directors.

The two 4,400 hp. towboats will be largely identical, with the main difference being the first will fall under EPA Tier III regulations and the second to be EPA Tier IV compliant. Those vessels, which are yet to be named, will measure 142 feet by 44 feet and a moulded depth of 11 feet. Farrell & Norton Naval Architects supplied the design for the vessels, which will pair Cummins QSK60 main engines to Reintjes WAF 873H gears from Karl Senner. Texas Wheel Works supplied the vessels’ Sound five-blade stainless steel propellers, which feature a 100-inch diameter and 90-inch pitch. Rice supplied the vessels’ kort nozzles. The two 4,400 hp. towing vessels will each have a fuel capacity of 75,000 gallons.

Canal Barge expects delivery of the mv. “Heavy Lane” in mid April, with the first vessel from Steiner coming online in about a year. The second vessel from Steiner will follow in the third quarter of 2021.

Stone said likely operating areas for the three forthcoming towing vessels may include the Lower Mississippi River, Upper Mississippi River, Illinois River and Ohio River.

“Versatility allows CBC to be flexible and creative to meet our customers’ needs,” he said.

Diversity of services, areas of operation and clients, Stone said, also allows Canal Barge to look both to new-construction projects and acquisitions to expand its fleet. The latter was the case when Canal Barge announced the purchase of five vessels from Pine Bluff Sand & Gravel Company in September 2019 and the purchase of two Harley Marine vessels in May 2019.

“They fit well into our ‘Fleet of the Future’ plan, and we were able to bring on highly skilled, professional crews that fit our culture,” Stone said.

The vessels Canal Barge acquired from Pine Bluff include the 6,000 hp. mvs. Don Boling, Bill Atkinson and Gerald Majors, along with the 1,800 hp. mvs. Bill Rodgers and George Rowe. Canal Barge acquired the mv. Liz Sloss (formerly mv. Diablo) and the mv. Hallie M. Merrick (formerly mv. Silver) from Harley Marine.

Stone said Canal Barge is constantly evaluating its fleet to identify growth opportunities through both new construction and acquisitions.

“Useful life, safety, crew comfort, reliability/availability, investment vs. return, and client standards are all factors driving business decisions on the future of each vessel,” Stone said. “The diversity of CBC’s business has permitted the company to be opportunistic with equipment in the market and new construction. Fleet adjustments are pursued that make sense for CBC.”