US Tank Barge Regs Loom, Laborde Presses Mitsubishi’s 'Mechanical Advantage'

By Greg Trauthwein, Editor

Owners of tank barges eye November 15, 2015 with trepidation, as by then they must ensure that tank barge power units meet USCG Class 1, Division 1 requirements for non-sparking machinery in a hazardous environment. Laborde Products – with the “mechanical advantage of the Mitsubishi” – claims to have the solution.

Covington, La.-based Laborde Products is not your standard diesel engine distributor. While Laborde Products was founded in 1998 by Tracy Laborde, the Laborde family has been heavily involved in the marine industry since 1954, when Alden “Doc” Laborde was responsible for the design and construction of the first offshore submersible drilling rig, Mr. Charlie, a rig which today stands as a museum in Morgan City, La.  Doc and his partners formed the Offshore Drilling & Exploration Company (ODECO), which became the world’s largest offshore drilling company. With offshore rigs came the need for specialized support vessels, so Doc teamed with his younger brother, John P. Laborde (Tracy’s father), and founded Tidewater Marine Services, building the world’s first offshore supply boat designed specifically for the support of offshore drilling. Both ODECO and Tidewater became the dealers in this new offshore drilling business with Tidewater becoming the world’s largest offshore supply boat company.
In short, the Laborde family – starting with Doc and running to and through Brian Laborde, President and second generation leader of Laborde Products – knows the marine business inside and out.

November 15, 2015

November 15, 2015 is the deadline for tank barge power units to meet the United States Coast Guard ‘no spark’ requirement, said Douglas Oehrlein, Vice President, Laborde Products, Inc.
“Inland barge operators who are operating barges with an 835 for a non-compliant barge power unit must remove that electronic controlled barge power unit and replace it with a compliant power unit or move the existing barge power unit outside of the hazardous zone, or 10 feet from the nearest opening or flanged surface,” said Brian Laborde, President, Laborde Products. “We are working with several large inland marine barge companies to prove a mechanical barge power unit that can be installed in place of its existing non-compliant power units with minimal if any modifications to the barge. We have customized our barge power units to fit the skids of most non-compliant power units, providing an easy solution for operators.”
While defining the ultimate size of the market is elusive, many owners have delayed installing the new solution, presenting a ripe market to Laborde which with its mechanical version Mitsubishi engines has developed Class 1 Division 1 tank barge power units that fit the need. “This allows Laborde customers to install the mechanical Mitsubishi power units within the hazard zone, without the redesign of the barge, which is required if electronic engines are used with much longer drive shafts,” said Oehrlein.
“We are the only engine company in the market to offer a fully mechanical USCG Class 1 Div 1 barge power unit,” said Laborde. “The key to our power units is the mechanical Mitsubishi engine that provides power and performance while maintaining the simplicity of a mechanical engine.”

Planning Ahead
While the looming tank barge business is expected to be brisk for Laborde Products in 2015, Brian Laborde admitted that the sudden, dramatic drop in oil pricing will present challenges to the company and its clients this year.
“We expect to see our marine markets slow down in the coming year, as we have seen a substantial pull back in the offshore marine market, and we are beginning to see the effects in the inland market,” said Laborde. “We believe that the new build programs of the inland operators will slow down as a result, and we have heard that our customers are experiencing downward pressure on their day rates from the charterers, as well as continued upward pressure from the crews due to a lack of supply of qualified crew members.” But while the near term looks challenging, Laborde is swift to point out that marine and offshore markets have historically weathered hard cycles up and down, and ultimately its clients play a critical, long-term roles in the world economy. Short term gyrations are not a time for panic, rather strengthening the team and facilities, planning for busier times to come. To that end, Laborde is currently investing in its Covington, La., headquarters to increase efficiencies.
“Our production capacity cannot keep up with the demand for our products so we are going to triple the production capacity of our facility to increase our production capabilities. We will be substantially expanding the production capabilities of Laborde Products to continue providing our customers with quality products in a timely fashion. While we are watching the markets very closely we believe that this slow down will give us time to strengthen the core of our business and prepare ourselves for future growth as the markets recover.  We look at challenging times as opportunities to improve and refine our business and our team.”

 

(As published in the March 2015 edition of Maritime Reporter & Engineering News - http://magazines.marinelink.com/Magazines/MaritimeReporter)

Maritime Reporter Magazine, page 52,  Mar 2015

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