The number of new tank barge deliveries in 2014 hit an all-time high of 344, according to River Transport News. That amounts to an increase of eight over 2013's 336, a 2.4% increase. Ironically, the industry saw a drop in total capacity for new barges because of a move toward lower capacity barges.
Though 30,000-bbl.-capacity barges continue to be the most popular size on order, 10,000-bbl. barges are gaining in popularity. In 2013, 91 10,000-bbl. barges were built as compared to 117 in 2014, according to RTN.
The leaders in the numbers bought and numbers built categories in 2013 retained their No. 1 positions in 2014 — Kirby Corp., Houston, ordered the most, 61, and Trinity Marine Products, Madisonville, La., built the most, 148, according to RTN.
Sandor Toth, RTN’s publisher, said he did not expect the record-breaking trend of the last three years to continue in 2015. “I think it’s going to be softer,” he said. “We’ve been on an incredible run.”
Toth couldn’t say how much of an effect the drop in the price of oil would have on barge deliveries going forward because of the uncertainty of low oil prices. “I honestly don’t know,” he said. “But the stuff still has to move.”
In a recent issue of his RTN newsletter, he commented that the lower price for a barrel of oil was having an effect on Kirby. In the fourth quarter of 2014, the inland tank barge giant recorded operating income of $104.2 million on revenues of $429.4 million, down from $107.8 million on revenues of $434.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2013. Kirby’s legacy inland barge unit had an operating income of $283.5 million compared to $288.2 million in 2013. Kirby cited a 13% drop in diesel fuel prices as the main fly in the company’s revenue soup.