As steel prices hover near record high rates, barge operators face tough decisions. Recently, C&C Marine and Repair LLC signed a contract to re-side over 200 hopper barges for one of their customers. The Belle Chasse, La.-based shipbuilder, located on 80 acres along the Intracoastal Waterway near New Orleans, is now delivering a refurbished hopper barge every week.
For C&C Marine, the demand for repair work has never been greater.
“With current steel prices, operators are choosing to repair their existing fleet of barges rather than building new,” C&C Marine’s owner Tony Cibilich said in a statement.
Since 2019, steel prices have risen sharply and are still nearly triple the pre-Covid-19 rates. “In the past, the industry norm was to scrap older hopper barges, but with current steel prices this practice needs to be reevaluated. Many of our customers are realizing that building new hopper barges is cost prohibitive,” said Cibilich.
Many barges are aging and operators will need to make difficult choices about their fleets. “Operators should evaluate their existing fleet to see whether any of the older hopper barges have good bottoms,” said Cibilich. “For those barges with good bottoms that can be economically re-sided, there is a potential to add 25 more years to the life of the barge, for less than half the price of building a new hopper barge.”
During the re-side process, C&C Marine typically renews approximately 130,000 lbs. of steel per barge. The shipyard has ramped up its production to accommodate the re-siding program without affecting its normal repair business.
The increase in the companies repair business also coincides with the hiring of Nick Bergeron as head of C&C Marine’s repair division.
“I have worked at other shipyards for over 25 years. C&C Marine’s facility is far and away the best I have ever seen. As soon as I got here, I knew I was home,” said Bergeron.
In addition to re-siding the barges, C&C Marine blasts and paints each hopper barge in less than 24 hours. Five years after building its state-of-the-art blast and paint building, C&C Marine continues improve efficiency and delivery times. “The great thing about C&C Marine and Repair is that we can provide every barge repair service at a single location,” said Bergeron.
As the industry continues to struggle with high steel prices, re-siding older hopper barges has become a cost-effective way of trying to maintain a stable fleet size.