And the winner is...

Gunderson Marine has emerged as one of two US shipyards that are cashing in on Kirby Corporation’s $80m order for an articulated tug-barge (ATB).
Gunderson says it can handle four projects of this magnitude per year.

Gunderson says it can handle four projects of this magnitude per year.

Late last night a well-placed market source told TradeWinds the Portland, Oregon-based shipbuilder landed a contract to construct the vessel’s 185,000-barrel tank barge.

Today this was confirmed by the company’s New York-listed parent, Greenbrier Companies, but it’s still unclear which US yard was hired to build the 10,000-hp tug.

In a statement it noted the order includes an option and said construction is scheduled to start in June of this year before applauding the spike in demand for Jones Act tank barges, a trend it attributed to the shale oil revolution and ageing fleet of existing tonnage.

While the identity of the second shipyard is still a mystery market sources with ties to shipbuilders in the Pacific Northwest and US Gulf have ruled out Vigor Industrial and Signal International as possibilities despite rumours to the contrary.

Kirby made headlines on Wednesday when it announced plans to construct an ATB with a price tag of approximately $75m to $80m on the back of a contract with a “major customer” that will charter the unit for up to five years upon delivery in the second half of 2015.

Gregory Lewis, an equity analyst at Credit Suisse, believes vessel will be used to shuttle crude along the US West Coast since Gunderson is located in this region and estimates the day rate to be approximately $45 to $50,000, which appears to be in line with the current average.

Observers note crude extracted from the Bakken shale formation in the Midwest is being shipped by rail to two major refineries in the Pacific Northwest but note most of the other facilities in the Puget Sound area are serviced by Jones Act tonnage.

Tesoro, which is active in the region and recently teamed up with Salvage Services to construct a 120,000-barrel per day rail-to-tanker facility in Vancouver, Washington, has been tipped as the charterer of Kirby’s ATB while others believe the counterparty may be Valero.

Prior to yesterday’s order the there were 43 ATBs actively trading in the US cabotage market and only two newbuildings. With a fleet this small, it may not come as a surprise that a single order can make waves in the Jones Act market.

The Jones Act is a reference to a law that protects domestic operators from low-cost foreign competition by requiring that the coastwise shipment of goods are handled by vessels that are US built, US flagged, US crewed and US owned.

Kirby Corp
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