Jeffboat plans major layoffs amid barge slump

Barge builder Jeffboat plans to lay off about half of its Jeffersonville, Ind., workforce through the first quarter of 2018, due to slow demand in the oversupplied inland barge sector.

Some 278 employees, mostly welders and fitters, will be subject to layoffs from late November through March, according to a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) letter the company submitted to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

“This action is in response to a decrease in the demand for the vessels that Jeffboat manufactures at the facility,” wrote Dawn R. Landry, senior vice president and general counsel for Jeffboat. “While we do not currently plan to close the facility, we expect the separations will be permanent …”

On its 80 acres along the Ohio River, Jeffboat builds barges, towboats and offshore equipment, and repairs vessels. One of the industry’s most prolific barge builders, the company’s production has been dropping, as River Transport News noted in its midyear 2017 report.

“Overall, if the pace of new tank barge deliveries that occurred in the first half of the year is maintained, total tank barge deliveries in 2017 will fall to their lowest levels since at least 2000,” RTN reported.

Compared to 2014 when 344 tank barges were delivered, newbuilds fell to 250 in 2015 and 112 in 2016. As the drop-off extended, Jeffboat was still the most active inland builder, delivering 10 in the first six months of 2017.

But the company also began pulling back, according to the Louisville, Ky., Courier Journal, which reported the current Jeffboat headcount is down to 600 workers from around 800 at the end of 2016.

About the author

Kirk Moore

Associate Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been a field editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for almost 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.

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