As steel prices hover around record high rates, barge operators are facing tough decisions. Recently, C&C Marine & Repair LLC signed a contract to re-side more than 200 hopper barges for one of its customers. The yard is now delivering a refurbished hopper barge every week.
For C&C Marine, the demand for repair work has never been greater.
“With current steel prices, operators are choosing to repair their existing fleet of barges rather than building new,” said C&C Marine & Repair owner Tony Cibilich.
Since 2019, steel prices have risen sharply, and they are still nearly triple the pre-COVID rates.
“In the past, the industry norm was to scrap older hopper barges, but with current steel prices this practice needs to be re-evaluated,” Cibilich said. “Many of our customers are realizing that building new hopper barges is cost prohibitive.”
According to The Waterways Journal’s Mississippi River Barge Fleet Survey, over the next five years, more than 7,425 dry cargo barges operating on the Mississippi River system will be more than 25 years old. Many of these barges are potential candidates for re-siding. With so many aging barges, operators will need to make difficult choices about their fleets.
“Operators should evaluate their existing fleet to see whether any of the older hopper barges have good bottoms,” Cibilich said. “For those barges with good bottoms that can be economically re-sided, there is a potential to add 25 more years to the life of the barge for less than half the price of building a new hopper barge.”
During the re-side process, C&C Marine typically renews approximately 130,000 pounds of steel per barge. The shipyard has upgraded its repair operation to be able to work on 24 barges on land simultaneously.
The increase in the capacity for C&C Marine’s repair business also coincides with the hiring of Nick Bergeron as head of the firm’s repair division.
“I have worked at other shipyards for over 25 years,” Bergeron said. “C&C Marine’s facility is far and away the best I have ever seen. As soon as I got here, I knew I was home.”In addition to re-siding the barges, C&C Marine is blasting and painting each hopper barge in less than 24 hours. Five years after building its state-of-the-art blast and paint building, C&C Marine continues to improve on the blast and paint process, increasing efficiency and delivery times.
“The great thing about C&C Marine & Repair is that we can provide every barge repair service at a single location,” Bergeron said. “As the industry continues to struggle with high steel prices, re-siding older hopper barges has become the industry’s most cost-effective way of trying to maintain a stable fleet size.”
C&C Marine & Repair was established in 1997 and is located in Belle Chasse, La., on 80 acres along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. C&C Marine & Repair offers customers a wide range of repair services, including barge residing, ISE work, topside repairs, hull damage repairs, bottom replacement, barge coatings and tank liners, blasting and painting.