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South Point barge repair business achieving groundbreaking initiatives

Mar. 06, 2010 @ 11:20 PM

SOUTH POINT, Ohio -- It was 2002 when McGinnis Inc. started to permit application project for a new facility to rehabilitate barges.

Eight years later, the $30 million project is finally complete, and, to company President Rick Griffith's knowledge, is the only of its kind in the world, with automated sandblasting and painting of barges under roof.

A barge comes off the river and is moved onto rail car wheel assemblies, and it's wheeled along a set of tracks into the facilities where they undergo painting and or repairs -- like a car wash, the company says. A project that might take several days or weeks at another facility can be done in a day at McGinnis, Griffith said.

It's also environmentally friendly. Currently, the majority of inland marine assets are maintained near the Gulf of Mexico, governed by weak environmental regulations and unstable weather patterns, according to a report from the company. McGinnis has developed a streamlined system with the most environmentally friendly technology available on the market today. The facility also offers a good deal to its customers by reducing downtime cost for maintenance.

McGinnis probably repairs 100 to 150 boats a month.

It's no small feat. Smaller barges are 195 by 35 feet and weigh 300 tons. Larger barges are 300 by 54 feet and weigh 1,000 tons.

In all, McGinnis offers barge and towboat repair, fleeting and harbor service, barge cleaning, fuel services, lid stacking, a machine shop, electrical services, new boat construction, oil spill cleanup, marine salvage and diving services. It hopes to eventually build new barges as well.

It's a great location for the work. The Port of Huntington is the largest inland river port in the United States.

"There's more barge traffic here than anywhere," Griffith said. "Normally, on the Big Sandy River alone, they loaded 21 million tons of cargo last year. Most of it was coal. Probably 17 or 18 million of it was coal."

Its largest customer overall is AEP. It's largest customer for repairs is Ingram Barge Co., based out of Nashville.

McGinnis was founded in Portsmouth in 1913 by Charles King, Floyd Fuller and Gilbert Monroe. It was initially called the Portsmouth Sand and Gravel Co. A stepson of King, Mac McGinnis, joined the company, and later under his leadership, it started down the path of barge repair.

Griffith has been with McGinnis since 1970, working his way up the company ladder from a welder. He was recently featured in an advertisement placed by the state of Ohio in the Wall Street Journal, touting the benefits of staying at home in Ohio and growing your business. McGinnis is home.

The business now has two facilities along the Ohio River at South Point, the newest being farther to the west. It also has a terminal in Coal Grove, Ohio. It operates the Greenup-Boyd County River Port, and a terminal in Wurtland, Ky. McGinnis also has three facilities in Cincinnati, Ohio, and two in Paducah, Ky.

The business has operations in St. Louis, Mo., and New Orleans as well, but Griffith does not head up those operations.

Ingram Barge Co. has been doing business with McGinnis for the past 20 years.

"McGinnis performs repairs to our Marine equipment along with other services, including painting of our barges," said Greg Jarrell, manager of barge maintenance on the upper Ohio River for Ingram.

"We have established a long-term relationship with McGinnis due to their very high quality of work, and time-efficient service, which puts our equipment back on the job in a timely manner at a competitive marine industry cost," Jarrell said. "Ingram Barge is very environmental conscience. We require our vendors to adhere to our sustainability programs. McGinnis fulfills this commitment as a company which like Ingram is totally responsible to a green environment and a clean river."

With its 45,000-square-foot expansion in South Point, McGinnis has been recognized for being environmentally friendly. It has received a 2009 WorkBoat Environmental Award for taking measures to make the operation as "green" as possible.

The steel grit that is used in sand-blasting is recaptured and reused, while the rust and debris is captured and put in drums to go to the landfill. The particulates created from the process are completely removed and filtered from atmosphere at a rate of 99.9 percent efficiency and feature the most advanced pulse-cleaned media ever made.

The spray booth will feature cutting edge paint spray technology by using heat as a means for itemization of paint coatings. This will reduce the thinner required and therefore reduce VOC (volatile organic compound) emissions from the facility on a daily basis. The thinner that is required for the system will be pumped into distillers that will separate the paint solids.

McGinnis also chose the most efficient compressor technology to run its process. In keeping with energy efficiency initiatives, McGinnis has developed a heat recovery system that recycles the heat generated from its rotary compressors and blows it back into the building. It's expected to reduce the demand for natural gas heating in the winter months. Also, the roof covering 50,000 square feet of space was chosen for its high solar reflective index, and the storm water runoff from the roof is contained in a water recycling pond that will be used for fire protection and wash down areas.

"We are proud of our new facility and the decision we made to accomplish ground breaking initiatives in our own backyard," the company said in a report. "This is just another example of the extra lengths McGinnis Inc. will go to pioneer the Inland Marine Industry."

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