Jumbo hopper barge deliveries to Mississippi River operators increased for the first time in three years in 2020, with 385 new barges delivered compared to 186 in 2019, according to River Transport News.

The increase was mostly driven by a drop in steel and barge prices, but more jumbo hopper barge building capacity was added when Madisonville, La.-based Arcosa Marine Products restarted construction operations.

As many as 17 barge companies took delivery of jumbo hopper barges last year, with Florida Marine Transporters (FMT) leading the pack with 70 new bottoms, RTN said. Other operators who took delivery of new jumbo hoppers in 2020 included Cargo Carriers (55), East Side River Transportation (50), Heartland Barge Management (46) and Crounse Corp. (33).

The inland tank barge market was soft in 2020, with only 143 new tank barges built compared to 177 in 2019. “The vast majority of these deliveries were for barges booked before the effects of the pandemic became apparent in the transportation marketplace,” RTN reported. “As a consequence, a number of barges built last year have yet to enter commercial service as they are awaiting sale or charter by their original purchasers.”

In 2014, the industry took delivery of a record 344 tank barges leading to an overbuild.

Twenty-three barge operators took delivery of new tank barges last year led by FMT with 22. Most of FMT’s new barges were built at Arcosa Marine — 10 10,000-bbl. chemical barges, eight 30,000-bbl. clean product barges, and two 30,000-bbl. barges with heaters, RTN’s numbers said. FMT also had two 16,000-bbl. pressure barges built at Conrad Shipyard.

Other tank barge deliveries in 2020 included Canal Barge (15), Ingram Barge (13), Marathon Petroleum (12), ACBL (10), Duvall Towing (9), Enterprise Marine (8), McDonough (8), Chem Carriers (6) and Kirby (4). RTN gets its barge construction numbers from operators and Coast Guard data.

Arcosa built the most tank barges in 2020, 81, followed by Conrad Shipyard with 21 and Southwest Shipyard with 17, according to RTN.

As for size, 30,000-bbl. tank barges were the most popular. U.S. shipyards built 77 new 30,000-bbl. inland tank barges last year, RTN reported.

Ken Hocke has been the senior editor of WorkBoat since 1999. He was the associate editor of WorkBoat from 1997 to 1999. Prior to that, he was the editor of the Daily Shipping Guide, a transportation daily in New Orleans. He has written for other publications including The Times-Picayune. He graduated from Louisiana State University with an arts and sciences degree, with a concentration in English, in 1978.