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Benny Cenac, Towing Entrepreneur, Transitions to Ship Building

With these new boats and the Kirby acquisition, Benny Cenac is excited about the future of towing in Louisiana.
With these new boats and the Kirby acquisition, Benny Cenac is excited about the future of towing in Louisiana.

By The Maritime Executive 2019-06-17 17:10:00

Benny Cenac of Cenac Marine Services (formerly Cenac Towing) and Main Iron Works, is thrilled to announce the completion of three new towing vessels, which will be used by Kirby Corporation. The vessels, which have been named the Sandra, Leigh, and Ivey, are set to be used by Kirby Corp. to transport petrochemicals, refined products, and black oil, including crude oil, residual fuels, feedstocks, and lubricants on the Lower Mississippi River, its tributaries, and Gulf Intracoastal Waterway for major oil companies and refineries.

Kirby Corp. and Cenac Marine Services

In January 2019, Kirby Corp. purchased a fleet of inland tank barges, towboats, and offshore tugs for approximately $244 million. Cenac's fleet, acquired by Kirby, consisted of 63 30,000-bbl. inland tank barges with approximately 1.9 million bbls. of capacity, 34 inland towboats, and two 3,200-hp offshore tugs.

The completion of the Sandra, Leigh, and Ivey symbolizes the growth of a partnership between the two companies. As CEO of Cenac Marine Services, Benny Cenac is grateful to pass along his towing business to Kirby Corporation, which he believes will serve the industry well in this next chapter in Louisiana's maritime industry.

Benny Cenac on the Towing Industry

"We are in a different time in this business that takes new and innovative ways to make it all work," Benny Cenac said. "With all of us looking to grow and evolve the business, we will continue our success. Every decision we make at our company is measured against the entrepreneurship and courage that my grandfather exemplified. We are confident that Jock Cenac would be proud and pleased with this decision, and the good position it places us in for the future."

The completion of the Kirby transition will allow Benny Cenac and Cenac Towing, historically a leader in the towing industry, to close that chapter. Cenac Marine Services will now focus the established tradition of excellence in new boat and barge construction, repowering and marine repair using the completely renovated and updated Main Iron Works shipyard, coupled with the complete location of Cenac Marine Services. The combination of equipment, technology, and manpower at these two locations will be the platform to embark on this new era of industry leadership. Benny Cenac felt bittersweet to end his time in the towing business but is hopeful that Kirby’s expanded fleet will allow the company to open trade to the world - expanding the towing business his family started decades ago.

"The acquisition of Cenac's young fleet of well-maintained inland tank barges and modern boats is an ideal complement to Kirby's operations," David Grzebinski, Kirby's president and CEO, said in a statement following the January acquisition.

"Cenac has a strong history of operational excellence and is well respected by the industry and its customers. Cenac's inland fleet of 30,000-barrel tank barges, of which approximately 80 percent are clean and 20 percent are heated black oil vessels, has an average age of only four years. Similarly, Cenac's fleet of modern inland towboats and offshore tugboats has an average age of only six years. The addition of these vessels to Kirby's fleet will not only further reduce our average age profile but will also further enable us to avoid significant capital outlays for new vessels in the future."

The three boats, the Sandra, Leigh, and Ivey, have all been built identically. Each have a length of approximately 88 feet with a 35-foot beam and 9-foot draft. The three boats were designed by Sterling Marine, which also builds passenger vessels, ocean tugs, inland towboats, fast crew-supply vessels, offshore supply vessels, and barges. Each boat contains a powerful John Deere 4045 engine, Rio engineered electric over hydraulic redundant systems along with Caterpillar 3512C-HD diesel engine powering the main propulsion system.

Benny Cenac on the Future of Towing in Louisiana

With these new boats and the Kirby acquisition, Benny Cenac is excited about the future of towing in Louisiana. Even though Kirby Corp. have aquired ownership of the vessels, Benny Cenac’s employees, from deckhands to captains, have seamlessly transitioned to current routes in the Kirby system.

Benny Cenac continues to uphold the values that both his grandfathers embedded into the companies he continues to lead today. As CEO of Cenac Marine Services, Main Iron Works, and Golden Ranch, where he provides refuge for a diverse array of wildlife, Benny continues to be guided by a commitment to honesty, unbeatable customer service, and respect for the pristine lands of Louisiana.

As a longtime supporter of conservation efforts, even on his own properties where he has installed a series of flood control structures, Benny is grateful for the opportunity to move ahead with concentrating on this next chapter for his business and ranch. As Kirby Corp. moves into the future of towing with this new acquisition, Benny Cenac looks forward to seeing both Kirby and his own companies grow.

The three boats are expected to begin use this summer. Benny Cenac, who is thankful for his experience in the towing industry, plans to strengthen this partnership with Kirby Corp., which has established a local office at the site of Cenac Marine Services, and is facilitating crew changes and logistical support from that location.

The completion of the Kirby transition will allow Benny Cenac and Cenac Towing, historically a leader in the towing industry, to close that chapter.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.