As we approach TTB 2022, the industry’s only maritime event dedicated exclusively to the tug, towboat and barge sector, we wanted to talk to a barge and towboat operator.
We already talked to a provider of custom-built and designed tug and barge fleets when we sat down with Russell Shrewsbury of Western Towboat. Now, we’re talking to Brandon Davidson, the manager of logistics and business development for Hines Furlong Line in Nashville, Tenn.
Hines Furlong Line is a company with multifaceted interests within the inland barge industry. The company has a diverse fleet of inland barges that are made available for lease and a fleet of owned and operated inland towboats that push both dry and liquid barges.
Marine Log (ML): The company has been around for over 135 years. Can you tell us some of Hines Furlong Line’s major milestones along the way?
Brandon Davidson (BD): A family company with five generations on the river has countless milestones to reflect on. Most recently in December 2017, Hines Furlong Line purchased Hunter Marine. Prior to the acquisition, Hines Furlong was primarily in the bareboat barge charter business.
The acquisition transitioned the company to a full-time operator of towboats as well as towing and fleeting services on the Cumberland River that now employs over 350 dedicated mariners and professionals.
ML: The last time Marine Log talked to Hines Furlong, you had just taken delivery of the M/V Scarlett Rose Furlong towboat delivered by C&C Marine and Repair. This was the first of three vessels you had on order. What’s the update on the other two in the series?
BD: We took delivery of the M/V Bowling Green in May of 2021 and the M/V Zephyr in December of 2021. All three are 170- by 50-foot triple-screw 6,600 hp. vessels.
ML: What are some unique features of the inland towboats and barges you lease to customers?
BD: We take great pride in the quality of our vessels and know that for our mariners it serves as a home away from home. With one of the youngest higher horsepower fleets in the industry, we’ve focused on acquiring and building vessels that meet the Hines Furlong standard in both performance and comfort for our mariners.
ML: How many towboats do you have in your fleet today, and what types of barges do you work with?
BD: Today, we operate 25 boats ranging in horsepower from 2,000 up to 8,000. On the Cumberland River, we operate five 4,000 hp. class vessels providing third party towing services as well as five 2,000 hp. harbor tugs servicing our fleets in Clarksville, Tenn., and Nashville. The remainder of our vessels are on fully found charter to other carriers in the industry.
All of our barges are on bareboat charter primarily in the tank barge space with both internally and externally framed 30,000 bbl barges. Additionally, we have a fleet of externally framed 10,000 bbl barges with many of them having high grade stainless steel cargo piping systems and cargo tank linings.
ML: What would you say have been some of the biggest challenges to business over the last few years, and how do you see things changing in the years ahead?
BD: Obviously, the pandemic provided challenges for everyone, and providing safe working conditions for our mariners and shoreside staff was no different. Proudly, we’ve been able to navigate the challenges presented by COVID without having to tie up a single vessel.
In my opinion, crewing vessels has become more challenging than ever before. Focusing recruiting efforts and selling our industry to future deckhands that will be the next wheelman and engineers will become increasingly important.
ML: Finally, what’s new? Any newbuilds or other projects in the works that you can tell us about?
BD: In addition to our new build program, we’ve also fully refurbished several boats in the last few years. We will soon be wrapping up the refurbishment of the M/V Captain Reggie Tubbs, a 1975 145- by 48-foot 6,000 hp. vessel built by Jeffboat.