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Thursday, March 21, 2013

CityBusiness Lists CBC in Annual “Top 100 Private Companies”

New Orleans CityBusiness listed Canal Barge Company as #11 in its annual ‘Top 100 Private Companies’ in the New Orleans area (based on revenue). Canal Barge has continued to move higher in this annual listing as we have grown our operations over the years. Canal Barge is pleased to receive this external recognition, which we believe is an outgrowth of our long-term vision, consistent management, and focus on our strategy.

The Special Focus article is featured in the March 15-21, 2013 issue of CityBusiness and includes an interview with CBC President and CEO, Merritt Lane. Merritt’s interview is below.

Interview by Ben Myers of New Orleans CityBusiness
Business Ebbs, Flows on Fluxing River

“The local maritime industry has been suffering annual crises in recent years.

In 2011, Mississippi River levels reached record highs, exacerbating the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ strained dredging resources. Last year, a widespread drought created the opposite problem, shrinking river depths to the point that trade associations and politicians warned that commerce might halt altogether.

That didn’t quite happen, but local businesses such as Canal Barge Co. faced severe restrictions nonetheless. CEO Merritt Lane said the first half of the year promised to deliver the strong growth he had projected, but potential gains evaporated along with the shrinking river.

‘For six months of year, we fought a situation where we were not able to load as deeply, we had to cut back the size of our tows, we had more delays,’ Lane said. ‘All of that means less revenue and more expense.’

Lane envisions sharing more risk with shippers through different contracting methods. Strict daily rates aren’t on the horizon, at least not for Canal Barge, but he said tonnage-based rates force carriers to shoulder disproportionate risk during natural events.

‘It’s very common for business in the upper reaches throughout the year to have ice clauses. Maybe we need to have something like drought clauses,’ Lane said, acknowledging that ‘market acceptance’ of this idea is uncertain.

The good news for Canal Barge was that its 2012 revenue tally of $308.4 million was only slightly off the previous year, and precipitation is picking up again along the river. Improved water and manufacturing driven by low natural gas prices bodes well for the company, Lane said.

New chemical and steel plants popping up in the River Parishes benefit barge companies such as Canal in temporary and long-term ways. They can deliver components for new plants under construction and ship the water-borne products the facilities will make.

At the same time, Lane said, the building materials market is soft, in part, because Louisiana’s recession-resilient construction industry is attracting competition among transportation firms.

‘Too many people chasing the same thing tends to make for a rather soft market,’ he said.”

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