Friday, January 13, 2012

Pittsburgh port companies build barges and business

Local companies in the Port of Pittsburgh district have gotten into the boat building business in a big way. Today's Pittsburgh Business Times, January 13, 2012, talks about the efforts of Campbell Transportation Company and Blank River Services, Inc. to build barges. Campbell added ten new employees last year to run their new fabrication shop. Blank expects to add ten next year. On December 29, 2011, the Post Gazette  reported on Brownsville Marine Products' was repowering our Mon River Valley with 307 employees in their barge building operation. BMP is now one of the largest barge builders on the inland waterways.

The timing for their entry in this business was perfect. First, the companies could better upgrade their yards when federal "Stimulus" money became available to improve "Small Shipyards". Second, many of the older barges, built in the 70s with tax incentives, had not been replaced on a one for one basis as they ended their 30 year life. And third, the emergence of the export coal market ties up equipment for longer periods. While it only takes a week to turn a vessel between eastern KY and Pittsburgh, it may take five weeks between PA, KY and WV on the one hand and the Gulf of Mexico on the other.

With longer trips, fewer barges are available creating a shortage of equipment. The shortage is starting to become a real problem for other shippers looking for cargo. Thanks to BMP, Campbell and Blank, Port of Pittsburgh companies' and their employees are doing their part to bring that waterway business back. New jobs are good.

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