Crowley expands petroleum fleet, praises VT Halter Marine

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - It's the final chapter in a program that Crowley Maritime Corporation launched more than a decade ago to expand its petroleum fleet. The last of 17 specially designed barges was christened at VT Halter Marine in Pascagoula on Thursday. Company officials said in total it was a $1 billion investment of which South Mississippi benefited greatly.

Soon Crowley's new Articulated Tug-Barge (ATB) will be transporting up to 330,000 barrels of petroleum from the refineries in the Gulf of Mexico to the Tampa market. Officials said a sophisticated design allows the barge to attach to a tug boat and operate easily in the water as one unit.

"These vessels provide efficiency," said Tom Crowley, CEO of Crowley Maritime Corporation. "They're built specifically for shallow draft environments. They're double hulled and all state-of-the-art environmental compliance and efficient engines that burn less fuel."

The VT Halter has been building various sized articulated tug barges for Crowley for more than a decade.

VT Halter Marine CEO Bill Skinner said, "In light of the fact that we've created thousands of jobs through the Crowley program, there's a trickle down effect to that. There's skilled [labor], there's pipe, there's electrical components. So there's thousands of other dollars and jobs that's gone into the support of constructing these vessels."

Skinner said creating satisfied customers is key.

"The best means of advertising is your reputation. When you deliver on time and when you build a good quality vessel that goes a long way with the customer," said Skinner.

"The quality of the product is fantastic," Crowley said. "They've got a fantastic engineering team here and a production team that has tremendous flexibility and can really build a variety of vessels."

"We've built three different classes of ATBs here, and we're in discussions with VT Halter for future projects as well," said Crowley.

VT Halter officials said another advantage is that these types of barges don't have to be manned, so Crowley use fewer personnel by only staffing the tug boat.

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