Steady Work for Inland River Towboat Builder

Thursday, March 02, 2000
Launched in 1972, Marine Builders Inc. has remained a model of consistency, churning out a healthy mix of towboats and - more recently - passenger vessels, each year of its existence. Beginning with Quarto 1, launched back in 1971, towboat construction has always been the company's bread and butter, but the company has built drydocks, dredges, cruise vessels, barges; and has even formed a new sister company which builds pedestrian bridges over waterways. Company President and Owner David W. Evanczyk began his boat-building career in the 1960's with Yates Marine Construction, in Wheeling, W.V. Evanczyk moved to the Louisville area at the request of Jack Yates, with the intent to form a new shipyard company in the area. For some reason, ultimately, the company was never formed, and Evanczyk began working for another company: Carman Industries, which built material handling equipment, such as feeders and conveyors. Eventually, Evanczyk was elevated to the position of president. Still, Evanczyk couldn't shake his interest in boat building. So, around 1972, he purchased the plans for certain vessels and some contacts from Yates, and formed Marine Builders, Inc. in Jeffersonville, Ind., along the bank of the Ohio at river mile 603.6. More than a decade later, in 1984, the company moved to its present position at mile marker 595.7 on the Ohio, near Utica, Ind. The company is a full service marine facility, says Jim Robinson, vice-president, taking each craft from the drawing board to launch. The company's in-house engineering and design team has produced vessels ranging from 400-1,800 hp, and passenger vessels with up to a 600 passenger capacity. The vessels are predominantly delivered to customers along the inland river system, more often than not, operating east of the Mississippi River. Recently, Marine Builders, Inc. has hired a naval architect, Rich Killian, as part of the company's plans to bring design 100 percent in-house. "Hiring a naval architect is a first for us," says Robinson. "In the past, when we've had to be certified by ABS or the USCG, we've had to do the scientifics out of house." Currently on Order "Right now, we have orders for two river towboats for the USACE," says Robinson. "Ironically, they're both going to the same district, but they are two different boats, with two different contracts." The company is also in the process of building a dinner cruise vessel for Winston Yacht Charters, which will be the sixth vessel built for the operator. Two USACE river towboats were recently delivered: one to the Philadelphia district in November, 1999, and one to the Rock Island district in December, 1999. Also, harbor pushboat Danny H. was delivered at the end of January to Jack Tanner Towing, in Havana, Ill. "During the last couple of years, we've built mostly towboats," says Robinson. "The company began with towboats and after being in business about 10 years, we built our first passenger vessel. We pursue both types of projects these days, but in a given year, we'll build maybe two or three towboats and one passenger vessel; and for the past four years, that one passenger vessel has been built for Winston Knauss. "Obviously, we feel the quality in our towboats is unmatched," he says. "These towboats have many of our own design features. For example, we've developed a side tank design, where in a three-section hull - two sides and one middle section - the fuel tanks are located on the sides. A lot of the bigger vessels, the 3,000-5,000 hp boats, are built the same way." The company offers a standard hull design for towboats, in measurements of 52, 56, 60, 65 and 75 ft., and a range of horsepower from 800-1,600. Robinson says 95 percent of the new construction orders utilize the standard hull design, with very few modifications, although the company has built towboats measuring 111 ft., with as much as 3,200 hp. Most of the company's work comes from word-of-mouth advertising. They do some print advertising and do attend various trade shows when time permits; but, as the company approaches 30 years of existence on the inland river system, they can rely upon their reputation. "We automatically get solicitations from the USACE, since we're in their computer bank," says Robinson. "But, we're pretty well-known around the inland river system. Typically, when there's a project, we hear about it." One of the company's better customers has been Mulzer Crushed Stone. Marine Builders has built six towboats for the company since the late 1970s. In fact, Mulzer was so pleased with the work, they commissioned Marine Builders to build a barge and drydock, despite the fact Marine Builders hadn't built either before. Preparing for the Future Like most successful companies, Marine Builders isn't content to simply sit back on its accomplishments. For its employees, Robinson says, there is the opportunity for company-funded training at a vocational school. "It's not a standard company policy, by any means," he says. "But, on a case-by-case basis, if the employee shows initiative and has a good track record with our company, the company will pay for career advancement training." Otherwise, most operational training is handled in-house. The company has a safety manual and a safety program; reviews procedures and holds safety meetings on a regular basis; and brings in an insurance company for a basic safety audit when required. "We've also installed a Quality Control Program," says Robinson. "So, we now have vessels certified by ABS. Both of the two recent USACE towboats we just delivered, as well as the two we have under construction, are ABS-certified; so that means we had to have qualified welders and we had to submit drawings. "Additionally, our passenger vessels are USCG-approved, so the construction enables them to be operated as far as 20 miles offshore. As mentioned earlier, the company recently formed a sister company called Marine Bridge and Iron, which builds pedestrian bridges over waterways. Basically, Robinson says, the experience of building floating restaurants with gangways was the impetus to the idea. One thing Marine Builders does not pursue is repair work. In fact, Robison says, right now, 95 percent of the company's business is new construction. "We don't solicit too much repair work," he says. "We sold our drydock, so we have to pull any vessel from the water to work on it. Although, if a customer needs repairs, we'll do it. "We just found it's not beneficial for us to run a new construction yard and a repair yard at the same time. And, over the past few years, we've been busy - our orderbook has always been full - so there's been no need to devote much time or attention to soliciting repair."

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