Bouchard Transportation Seeks Buyer or Lay-offs Will Begin in July

Bouchard seeks buyer or lay-offs
(file photo)

Published Jun 11, 2021 8:25 PM by The Maritime Executive

Family-owned oil barge transport company Bouchard Transportation Company, headquartered on Long Island, informed regulators and its bankruptcy court that it is seeking a buyer. The company, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection eight months ago, said it may begin layoffs in a matter of weeks if a buyer could not be located.

The company, which was founded in 1918, was up until recently managed by family member Morton S. Bouchard III as the company's chief executive and director. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in September 2020, saying it planned to continue normal operations with previously arranged debtor-in-possession financing while it moved forward with an operational restructuring.

As part of the bankruptcy proceeding, Judge David R. Jones, who is hearing the company's case in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Houston, later replaced Bouchard in the role of CEO with Matthew Ray, a managing partner at Chicago-based Portage Point Partners.

According to a filing made with the New York State Department of Labor Office of Dislocation of Workers Program, “the company is currently in the process of seeking a purchaser of Bouchard or its assets.” Bouchard's fleet includes 25 double-hulled barges and 26 tugboats.

The notice informed New York State that the company is contemplating layoffs at its Long Island headquarters, which it reports currently employs 108 people. The firm said a buyer may elect to continue the employment of all or a substantial number of employees. Otherwise, depending on the terms of a purchase transaction, the company may need to engage in layoffs. The layoffs may begin on July 15 and would continue through August 15, the targeted closing date of the Long Island office.

Bouchard has faced a series of regulatory and financial challenges since the explosion aboard the Bouchard Barge No. 255 off the coast of Texas in October 2017, which killed two crew members. The NTSB concluded that the accident stemmed from a lack of effective maintenance and safety management. 

The company and three members of management were later ordered to pay restitution to one of their seamen, who is the brother of one of the men killed in the accident. OSHA found in favor of the brother, saying he had been wrongly dismissed from his position after he cooperated in the investigation into the accident.

In 2020, the company also faced allegations of non-payment of wages to its crews. It later reported arranging financing and said that it would repay all back wages.