Mergers and Acquisitions

VLS Expanding Marine Footprint On The Gulf Coast

VLS Environmental Solutions (VLS), a waste management, railcar cleaning and marine services company headquartered in Houston, entered the marine market in 2019 with the acquisition of Port Arthur, Texas-based Tubal-Cain Marine Services.

Eddie Van Huis, vice president of the marine and industrial division for VLS, said his father started Tubal-Cain as a structural steel fabrication company in 1981. His father named the company after the first blacksmith mentioned in the Bible.

“I went to work for him after college and started our marine division in 2005,” Van Huis said. “I grew it from 2005, adding a total of four divisions, then sold it to VLS in 2019.”

Van Huis said adding a marine services division made perfect sense for VLS due to the similarities between barge cleaning and railcar cleaning.

“We do the same types of things, only we’re cleaning a vessel,” Van Huis said. “A barge is very similar to a railcar in transporting petrochemicals. We produced waste and had a waste division, so we were a perfect fit.”

The marine division of VLS, which already included the original Tubal-Cain facility in Port Arthur and a second location in Sulphur, La., recently expanded to the Lower Mississippi River with the acquisition of Plaquemine Point Shipyard in Sunshine, La., just south of Baton Rouge. With the shipyard located near the Port Allen Lock, Plaquemine Point proved a strategic acquisition for VLS, which now offers a host of marine services to companies operating on the Mississippi River and the nearby Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.

“We purchased it from Frank Banta of Chem Carriers,” Van Huis said. “The footprint was already there. We’re just expanding the services in our capabilities at that location. The position of Plaquemine put another dot on the map for us. It allowed us to take our expertise and the services we provide in Port Arthur and Sulphur and do those same things in the Baton Rouge market.”

On the cleaning side, those services include change-of-cargo cleaning, cleanings for hot work, vapor control, steaming and LPG flair, Van Huis said. On the repair side, VLS’s marine division offers drydock capability, major repairs and conversions, U.S. Coast Guard interval inspections and routine and preventative maintenance.

Van Huis said he’s excited to have the team at Plaquemine Point join the VLS family.

“We’ll learn from them some of the operations on the Mississippi River, and hopefully they’ll learn from us and build on some of the successes we’ve had at our other locations,” he said.

Van Huis said that the marine division at VLS isn’t finished expanding.

“Hopefully, by the end of the year, we will be a little farther east in the New Orleans area,” he said. “We could possibly be a little north of Baton Rouge. We’ll take a look at what the demand is. And then we’ll be going west of Port Arthur as well. VLS is the only player in the space that’s owned by private equity, so we have very large financial partners backing us.”

Aurora Capital owned VLS for about five years, said Keith Rensink, director of marketing for VLS. Under that ownership, the company grew to about $300 million in annual revenue. In July, I Squared Capital announced plans to acquire VLS, with the purchase to close sometime in the third quarter of 2022. Rensink said it’s all about taking VLS to the next level—with a revenue goal of $1 billion.

“It’s incredible, because I’ve seen it grow from zero to where we are today,” Rensink said.

More About VLS

VLS’ waste division provides customized waste processing solutions for non-hazardous industrial and commercial waste, including landfill diversion and sustainability programs, solidification of liquid waste, recycling and wastewater treatment. The company’s railcar cleaning division provides specialty cleaning services for difficult-to-clean products, including chemicals, hardened materials and pressurized gases using the most environmentally friendly and safe processes in the industry. The company’s marine division provides barge cleaning and repair facilities for a wide variety of petroleum and chemical solvents. VLS has more than 800 employees in 28 locations across the country. For more information about VLS, visit: