Bouchard Transportation has filed for bankruptcy protection.

The troubled but storied Long Island tug and barge operator has filed papers in the Houston-based US bankruptcy court for the Southern District of Texas, seeking to reorganise.

According to the filings, Bouchard has between 1,000 and 5,000 creditors, liabilities of between $100m and $500m and assets of between $500m and $1bn.

The company is filing alongside vessel-owning subsidiaries B No 240 Corp, B No 295 Corp, Tug Barbara E Bouchard Corp and Tug Bouchard Girls Corp.

Deadly explosion

Bouchard Transportation has suffered a series of legal and regulatory issues that appear to have begun after an explosion on one of its barges killed two seafarers in 2017.

Last October, in a letter obtained by TradeWinds, chief executive Morton Bouchard III said the company's future was uncertain and it was operating with a skeleton crew after the US Coast Guard revoked safety documents for several vessels, making them untradeable.

In the latter, Bouchard accused the USCG and ABS of trying to destroy the company.

Later, Bouchard told TradeWinds the document was stolen off a company computer, never signed and never sent.

In late 2018, the company was the subject of dozens of lawsuits from vendors alleging unpaid bills.

Bouchard Transportation was able to clear some up, but many are outstanding.

It also had been fined by the US government for whistleblower retaliation and was sued by seafarers for unpaid wages.

The move toward bankruptcy comes despite the company's insistence in March that it had secured enough financing to settle its debts and the receipt of a US government-backed Paycheck Protection Program loan between $5m and $10m.

The loan, made to ease the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic on small businesses, was used to protect no jobs.

According to the bankruptcy filings, Mississippi-based VT Halter Marine is the largest creditor with a $17.4m claim.

Tampa's International Ship Repair has the second-largest claim with $3.2m and McAllister Towing & Transportation has the third largest with $2.2m.

Bouchard Transportation is being represented by Jackson Walker in Houston and Kirkland & Ellis in Chicago.