Vane buys Colonial’s tugs and barges

Baltimore-based Vane Brothers continues to feed its big appetite for more boats and barges. Last month the tug company purchased the marine assets of Savannah, Ga., oil company Colonial Group

Coordinating with Chemoil, who bought the marine division of Colonial, Vane then purchased the 10 tugs and 10 barges that were operated by Colonial subsidiary Chatham Towing Co. and Sun State Towing. The subsidiary specialized in ship refueling and the transport of liquid products in barges with capacities from 10,000 bbls. to 30,000 bbls. The deal adds three ports to Vane’s portfolio, including ship-bunkering operations in Charleston, S.C., Savannah and Jacksonville, Fla. 

“The move south was natural for us,” said Vane president Duff Hughes. “Colonial is also a family business, and we have very similar cultures.” 

Hughes said that Colonial owner Rob Demere was concerned about the fate of the tug crews after the acquisition. “We are very pleased to welcome them to Vane.” Some 50 employees made the switch giving Vane 800 employees. 

“We have found that the model we developed here at Vane as we have grown translates very well,” said Hughes, who added that the Colonial crews have responded positively to the change in ownership. Vane is introducing its technology-based systems to the southern ports and using local knowledge to make a smooth transition in the new ports.

“Colonial was an oil company with a tug fleet,” said Hughes. “We are strictly a marine transportation company with a tug and barge culture, and the crews appreciate that.”

With the additional boats and barges, Vane now operates a fleet of around 120 vessels, with more new deliveries scheduled for coming months. 

Vane’s bunker market expansion now virtually covers the East Coast from Maine to Florida.

Vane also purchased five tugs from Kirby that the Houston company acquired along with 58 other tugs and 58 tank barges in the 2011 K-Sea Transportation purchase. Kirby deemed them excess assets. Vane purchased the boats from the New York harbor operation. Some will likely be sold, according to Hughes.

And on the new construction front, Vane recently launched the 10th of 12 tugs at Chesapeake Shipbuilding, with an option for two more. Also, Conrad Industries in Orange, Texas, is building six 30,000-bbl. ocean-classed tank barges and Jeffboat is building four 50,000-bbl. barges. 


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