Vane: More tugs and barges

Baltimore-based Vane Brothers continues to feed its big appetite for more boats and barges. Last month Vane purchased the marine assets of Savannah, Ga., oil company Colonial Group. The deal adds three ports to Vane’s portfolio, including ship bunkering operations in Charleston, S.C., Savannah and Jacksonville, Fla. Coordinating with Chemoil, who bought the marine division of Colonial, Vane then purchased the comapny’s fleet of 10 boats and barges.

“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 bringing Vane to 800 employees.

“We have found that the model we developed here at Vane as we have grown translates very well,” said Hughes. The Colonial crews have also responded positively to the change in ownership. Vane is introducing their 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 is now operating a fleet of around 120 vessels, with more new deliveries scheduled for coming months. 

In addition to the Colonial fleet acquisition, Vane also purchased five boats from Kirby that the Houston company acquired in the K-Sea purchase. Kirby deemed them excess assets. Vane purchased the boats from the New York harbor operation. Some will likely be sold, according to Hughes.

Vane’s expansion further into bunker markets provides the company with coverage of most of the East Coast from Maine to Florida.

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.

About the author

Kathy Bergren Smith

Kathy Bergren Smith has been a correspondent with WorkBoat since 2002. She is also a writer and photographer for the Port of Baltimore Magazine covering shipping and port activities. Smith, also a noted commercial and fine art photographer, resides in Annapolis, Md.

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