American inland shipyard Jeffboat will be shutting its doors after more than 180 years in the ship and barge building industry, the shipbuilder confirmed Monday.
Located on the Ohio River in Jeffersonville, Indiana, Jeffboat is the nation’s largest and longest continually operated inland shipyard, but its business has been hit by a decline in orders over the last several years which has already forced the company to slash its workforce by more than 80%.
Jeffboat’s closure was confirmed over the weekend by the Teamsters Local 89 workers union, which was told of the news on Friday.
“It is with heavy hearts that we confirm reports that Jeffboat, the nation’s largest inland shipbuilder and one of Local 89’s oldest companies, is shutting down,” the union said in a statement posted to Facebook. “Over the last several years, the shipbuilding industry has seen a massive decline and while this cycle has occurred in decades past, this time it was unfortunately too much for the company to bear.”
The historic Ohio River shipyard was founded 1834 as Howard Shipyard, building riverboats during the height of the steamboat era. With the United States’ entry into World War II, the shipyard won contracts from the U.S. Navy which allowed its workforce to explode from around 200 before the war to a peak of 13,000. After the war, Jeffboat took over operations and turned its focus to inland barges and towboats for the commercial market.
Today, Jeffboat specializes in the design and construction of inland barges, towboats and ocean-going vessels at the 80-acre Jeffersonville, Indiana shipyard, where it has built 12,900 vessels over the last 80 years.
Jeffboat is owned by American Commercial Lines and is the manufacturing division of American Commercial Barge Line, a leading provider of inland barge transportation services.
ACBL confirmed Jeffboat’s closure in a statement to gCaptain in which the company cited an oversupply of barges that has caused orders to drop significantly over the past three years. As recently as a few years ago, Jeffboat employed as many as 1,300 workers, but layoffs have reduced that number to just 220 currently.
“Following recent Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) notices of November 1, 2017 and February 1, 2018 announcing layoffs, Jeffboat president and CEO Mark Knoy said they will finish construction of barges by the first of May, the statement said. “Following the closure, Jeffboat will be reviewing the best alternative uses for the 65 acres of riverfront property currently occupied by the shipyard.”
“While we’re very sorry that market conditions have left us with no choice but to close Jeffboat.” Knoy said, “The shipyard closure will not have an impact on ACBL’s barge freight business or its customers, vendors and teammates.”
Below is a video with more about the history of Jeffboat: