The Ties that Bind

By Greg Trauthwein, Editor
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
A bond forged more than 40 years ago stands strong today. L to R: Chris Senner, Jon Gonsoulin and Ralph Senner.

This month the M/V Karl Senner and the M/V Dickie Gonsoulin will be christened in Houma, La. While the event is centered on a pair of new, high-specification towboats, the celebration is the culmination of more than 45 years of business partnerships between Karl Senner, LLC and LeBeouf Bros. Towing.
 

The inland towing business is filled with history, characters and long tales of business partnerships extending years, decades or even centuries. The partnership between LeBeouf Bros. Towing and Karl Senner LLC is one such story, a partnership forged more than 45 years ago between Karl Senner and Dickie Gonsoulin; a partnership solidified again this month with the delivery of M/V Karl Senner and M/V Dickie Gonsoulin in Houma, La.

A Strong Start
The partnership forged by Senner and Gonsoulin and extended today by their two sons, Ralph Senner and Jon Gonsoulin, all started in 1967 aboard the M/V Mary R, which was a single screw tugboat  purchased by LeBeouf Brothers Towing after its incorporation in 1944. Mary R was originally powered with an Atlas six-cylinder, 160 hp engine. In 1955, the vessel was repowered with an Enterprise 6 cylinder inline “M” engine rated 400 hp at 800 rpm. Mary R sank in 1957, and after the vessel was recovered from the waters of Texas City harbor, it was refurbished and placed back into service.
In 1967, Karl Senner sold his first Reintjes gearbox for installation in the United States to LeBeouf Brothers towing.
The Reintjes WAV 721 gearbox was installed in the Mary R for use with the Enterprise 6 cylinder inline “M” engine. The Mary R operated successfully with no major repairs to the Reintjes gearbox from date of installation until the vessel was taken out of service in December 1981.
According to Jon Gonsoulin, President, LeBeouf Bros. Towing LLC, after the vessel was decommissioned “we pulled the gearbox out and gave it back to Karl Senner as a momento. They cleaned  it up, polished it and put it on display at the Workboat show.”
Ralph Senner said that the gearbox eventually was sent back to Germany for display at Reintjes, but that it will be back in the U.S. at the double christening, which was planned for September 14, 2013.
This boat will be the first ever to bear the name M/V Karl Senner, an honor that Gonsoulin said is appropriate. “Considering that Mr. Karl and dad were very dear friends for all of these years, it’s a befitting time with the delivery of sister boats to have them both be named in their honor.”

Changing with the Times
While Karl Senner LLC still is a private, family run business, and maintains much of the same character and principle upon which it was founded, it has been undergoing a transformation of sorts, with the ascension last year of Ralph Senner as the company’s leader and the naming of Steve Valdes as CFO. 
Just last month the company opened a new training facility on its premisis, a facility which is intially aimed at training and maintaining its own staff, but eventually intended to accomodate training needs for its customers as well.
“Finding quality trained personnel that can live the lifestyle of a service technician is challenge in our business,” Ralph Senner said, noting that this was a driver to develop its own training center. The new training center, combined with expansion of its facilities Paducah, Ky. and Houston and buoyant business in nearly all of the sectors it serves, has the company running at full speed. But the business, as always, comes with fresh challenge.
One of the main challenges today is consolidation, the loss of small privtely held companies which are being bought by capital groups or public companies. “Publicly traded companies are not looking to the future as much as privately held companies like Jon’s, which are willing to spend a little more money upfront because they wanted to know what that asset would be worth 10, 15 years from now,” Ralph Senner said. “Some companies are looking to see how much money they can make now, getting that asset to work as quickly as they can, as cheaply as they can.”
Gonsoulin agrees, noting that he is willing to spend more money upfront, for example to build barges with thicker steel plate, or to invest an extra $25k in a heavier duty gear, with the assumption that the investment in quality will pay off in the long run with less downtime and trips to the reapir yard.
 “Having your own yard allows you a lot of flexibility,” Gonsoulin said. “It might cost a bit more in the short term, but in the long term, building yourself, building it better to your spec, it makes a lot of sense to me to build it stronger from the beginning.”
Jon is third-generation in the business, and he said the decision was made to start building its own boats in 2005 in the wake of hurricane Katrina, when a local shipyard who had bid on one of their jobs essentially said they could not bid the project.
“It was December 23, 2005, and that lit a fire under me to build my own equipment. I started building my own tank barges. The first two barges were delivered in Q1 2008, and we’re about to launch barge 537, so we’ve built 37 barges between 2008 and now.”
The M/V Karl Senner and the M/V Dickie Gonsoulin are the second and third of a five boat series, all 95 x 34 ft., though the Karl will have Mitsubishi power and the Dickie Caterpillar 3512s. All, naturally, will have Reintjes gears.
“The relationship (with Senner) goes back to my father and Mr. Karl,” said Gonsoulin. “We became friends and business partners quite a few years ago. We don’t exclusively have Karl Senner supplied Reintjes gears, but that’s usually because of boats we bought that had other gears in them. But if we build new or repower,  we go exclusively with Reintjes gearboxes.”
Gonsoulin said the quality of the product is important, but more so the after sales service that has cemented the relationship with Senner.  With the waterways being unpredictable, problems may arise unexpectedly, and when they do, resolving them efficiently and effectively is critical to the bottom line.
“It’s all about trust and service,” Gonsoulin said. “If we ever have a problem, these guys do a wonderful job as they get things done and the boats going for us.
They have swing gears sitting on the floor us, to get our boat operating again quickly. If it wasn’t for their willingness to have a spare sitting on the floor for us in New Orleans, to have  that money sitting on the floor, we would be down for the count (with a failure). We either would have had to wait for another unit from Germany or we would have had to install another gear.”
According to Senner the company currently maintains approximately $14m in spare parts, and the main challenge is simply knowing which spares to stock. While many companies may eschew having that much capital tied up in parts, Senner sees it as a central plank to its business model. “We conduct an annual evaluation of the equipment we have running to give us a good indication of where we need to invest (in spares). But really, it simply comes down to communicating with the customers.”

(As published in the September 2013 edition of Maritime Reporter & Engineering News - www.marinelink.com)
 

  • M/V Karl Senner

    M/V Karl Senner

  • M/V Dickie Gonsoulin

    M/V Dickie Gonsoulin

  • The man with his jacket over his sleeve is Karl Senner, and the man to the right of him with his hand behind his back is Dickie Gonsoulin.   The woman to the left of Karl Senner is his wife Gerda Senner, and the man with his legs crossed, hands folded, and glasses was Mr. Muller, the managing director of Reintjes at the time. The photo was taken in Germany at the Reintjes factory in the 1970s, with Senner and Gonsoulin honorary guests of the city of Hameln. Dickie Gonsoulin remembers they were s

    The man with his jacket over his sleeve is Karl Senner, and the man to the right of him with his hand behind his back is Dickie Gonsoulin. The woman to the left of Karl Senner is his wife Gerda Senner, and the man with his legs crossed, hands folded, and glasses was Mr. Muller, the managing director of Reintjes at the time. The photo was taken in Germany at the Reintjes factory in the 1970s, with Senner and Gonsoulin honorary guests of the city of Hameln. Dickie Gonsoulin remembers they were s

  • M/V Karl Senner
  • M/V Dickie Gonsoulin
  • The man with his jacket over his sleeve is Karl Senner, and the man to the right of him with his hand behind his back is Dickie Gonsoulin.   The woman to the left of Karl Senner is his wife Gerda Senner, and the man with his legs crossed, hands folded, and glasses was Mr. Muller, the managing director of Reintjes at the time. The photo was taken in Germany at the Reintjes factory in the 1970s, with Senner and Gonsoulin honorary guests of the city of Hameln. Dickie Gonsoulin remembers they were s
Maritime Reporter April 2015 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

People & Company News

5th Floating Accommodation for Lerwick

A further accommodation ship, Ocean Atlantic, is due at Lerwick on Monday 27 April 2015 and is on its way from Portland in Dorset. As with the other floating accommodation at the port,

Double Order for Super Gloria Reachstacker

Kalmar, part of Cargotec, has gained an order for two Super Gloria reachstackers from Tadarsa Logistics S.L. in Aviles, Spain. The largest reachstackers ever built,

BIMCO Welcomes EU Decision on Migrants

BIMCO has stated today that it appreciates the new efforts by EU leaders to reduce increasing reliance on merchant shipping to rescue the growing numbers of

Workboats

Apply Now for the MN 100

The August 2015 edition of Marine News, the leading voice in the North American workboat market, will feature 100 leaders and innovators, including workboat owners and operators,

Boatbuilding in China

While much of the focus on coverage of the Chinese shipbuilding industry is on big shipbuilding, Maritime Reporter switches gears this month to explore activities in select boatbuilding sectors.

Ingram Barge’s Sehrt Elected AWO Chairman

The members of the American Waterways Operators (AWO), the national trade association representing the tugboat, towboat and barge industry, elected a new slate

History

Arctic Nations to Fight Climate Change Despite Russia Tensions

The eight Arctic Council nations pledged on Friday to do more to combat climate change that is shrinking the vast frigid region, with countries trying to put

BHP Billiton Commemorates the Anzac Legacy

On the 100th anniversary of the Anzacs’ landing at Gallipoli, BHP Billiton has honoured the contribution of serving Australians and New Zealanders past and present

Salvage and Wreck Removal Conference

HINODE Events and Services Pvt Ltd., have announced the 4th Annual Conference on Salvage and Wreck Removal in India to be held on Wednesday, July 8, 2015 at Visakhapatnam on India's East Coast.

 
 
Maritime Careers / Shipboard Positions Maritime Contracts Maritime Security Maritime Standards Navigation Pipelines Port Authority Salvage Ship Repair Ship Simulators
rss | archive | history | articles | privacy | contributors | top maritime news | about us | copyright | maritime magazines
maritime security news | shipbuilding news | maritime industry | shipping news | maritime reporting | workboats news | ship design | maritime business

Time taken: 0.2041 sec (5 req/sec)