While tank barges for carrying LNG are just starting to be developed, the design and construction of inland tank barges for hauling liquid petroleum are fully mature. And business is booming. 

According to River Transport News, 336 inland tank barges were delivered in 2013, a total that “smashes the previous record of 261 established in 2012.”

RTN publisher Sandor Toth told WorkBoat that the ability to carry crude oil is one of the primary drivers of the tank-barge construction surge. 

“This boom, it’s a tremendous thing, I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. “It’s been ramping up for the past two years, basically since 2010 when the original Keystone pipeline opened and we started seeing barge crude volumes grow. And then on top of that as Canadian oil sands production grew and then North Dakota Bakken and Williston Basin production grew, we started seeing a lot more volume coming down from the Midwest. Then Eagle Ford grew in Texas, and you saw a lot more volume coming out of Victoria, Texas, and Corpus Christi coming up by barge.”

Toth added that natural gas condensates, which are natural gas liquids, “are also important right now.”

With all this growth, more companies are boosting their tank-barge operations. AEP River Operations, Chesterfield, Mo., for example, has a 41-year history of hauling dry cargo on inland rivers. Starting this year, the company has added a liquids division and recently took delivery of the first of 20 new tank barges. All 20 barges are being built at Jeffboat and all measure 200'x35' with an 11,000-bbl. capacity. 

In 2013, the predominant size for new tank barges was 30,000-bbls. Of last year’s 336 new barges, 241 are 30s.

Once again, Kirby led in acquisition of new tank barges in 2013 with a total of 70, 37 of which are 30,000 bbl., both clean and heated. 

The most productive tank-barge builder in 2013 was Trinity Marine Products, which delivered 155 tank barges. Conrad Shipyard was second (45) and Jeffboat was third (40), according to RTN.

Of the 15 yards that built inland tank barges last year, two were new to the market: LAD Services, Morgan City, La., and Three Rivers Boat & Barge, Ledbetter, Ky. — B. Buls