BOUCHARD TRANSPORTATION CO., INC.
Incorporated 1918 – centennial in 2018
Ironically, just as the company started with a bang, one may have set off a chain of events that does them in. The Buster Bouchard/B. No. 255, caught fire and exploded off the coast of Port Aransas, Texas in October of 2017. Two crew died and 2,000 barrels of crude oil was released. The legal, regulatory and environmental aftermath severely affected the company’s finances.
Bouchard filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September 2020 after several tumultous months during which the Coast Guard deemed multiple vessels unfit to sail including ones in the Port of NY-NJ and obliged crews to stay on them to monitor the vessels.
This 2020 saga played out, with the pandemic as backdrop, in multiple articles in the maritime and mainstream press that highlighted the plight of crews stranded on boats in several states of the USA.
Making comparisons to an 1895 maritime case, gCaptain wrote "A century later, the crews on board Bouchard Transportation Company tugs find themselves in a situation akin to John Bradley, Philip Helzen, Morris Hansen, and Robert Robertson at the end of the nineteenth century. In the present day, the crewmembers are not being held by the masters, but instead by their own government, specifically the United States Coast Guard. Bouchard forfeited their rights to direct the crews on board the vessels when their contracts ended, and they failed to pay them. The US Coast Guard should seize the vessels, make the necessary arrangements to secure them and their cargo, and release the crews."
As is often the case with tug and barge companies in the port of New York, Bouchard is a family-owned and operated company. The company started nearly 100 years ago with a bang – literally – and a powerful Red Hook WaterStory. From their website:
“On July 30, 1916, while on watch of the tug C. GALLAGHER of the Goodwin, Gallagher Sand Co., Captain Bouchard witnessed the infamous Black Tom Explosion, which detonated $22 Million dollars worth of WW I munitions. Always one to set out to accomplish what few others could, he took his tug from the Long Dock at Erie Basin in Brooklyn and headed for New Jersey. Amongst continuing explosions, which blew the glass panes and lights out of his tug, he worked to rescue the 4,000-ton Brazilian steamer TIJOCA RIO, and the schooner GEORGE W. ELEZY, of Bath, ME. Later the US District Court awarded the Captain a salvage award and an additional award for personal bravery, which totaled $9,000. He quickly invested the salvage award to create his own company, Bouchard Transportation Company, which was incorporated in 1918.”
The company was also involved in a big-name modern rescue. January 2009, US Airways flight 1549 was skillfully crash landed in the Hudson River by Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger. According to Bouchard, the Coast Guard called one of Bouchard’s larger tugs to assist with creating a barrier around the airliner. This barrier kept other mariners out of harm’s way, and also kept the passengers safe while being rescued from the water. You can see three of Bouchard tugs in this photo.
Bouchard Transportation is in the 5th generation, having been passed from founder Captain Fred to his son Morton S. Bouchard, Sr. aka “Buster,” and then to Morton S. Bouchard Jr. and then to his son Morton S. Bouchard III, who is the current President & CEO. Other family members working for the firm are Captain Fred’s great, great grandson Brendan J. Bouchard, the Vice President of Chartering, and Brendan’s sister Danielle M. Bouchard who is the Director of Communications.
The Bouchard fleet operates LARGE tugs and barges that transport petroleum products. You can see them around the north and south sides of Pier 7, the far northern end of the Port Authority Red Hook Marine Terminal which abuts BrooklynBridgePark or out in the anchorage, visible from ValentinoPark or O’Connell’s esplanade.
Speaking of large, Bouchard was the first company to build double-hull barges, which was in response to the new regulations of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA). Double-hulls are mandated on vessels transporting fuel in US waters as a safety measure to prevent or reduce oil spills and protect the environment.
Bouchard barges have modern corporate names such as B. No. 205, but the tugs show the signs of a family company and are mainly named after family members (Buster, Marion, Capt. Fred, Ellen, Rhea, etc) with the exception of those with a poetic evening theme (The Evening Light, The Evening Tide, The Evening Mist, and the Evening Star).
Bouchard is one of five tug and barge companies in Red Hook that transport petroleum products. The others are Vane, Reinauer, Greater NY Marine, American Petroleum & Transportation, but they are not all doing the same thing. Bouchard’s business is transporting petroleum products for major oil companies. Bouchard transports black oil, clean oil, and asphalt, work that is “dock to dock” and does not include fueling ships.
Bouchard’s areas of operation include all four coasts of the US: East, Gulf, West and Great Lakes, Canada, and the Caribbean. Their twenty-six barges, range from 35,000 BBLs to 260,000 BBLs. The twenty-five tugs range from 3,000 HP to 10,000HP with many in the 6,000 HP range. Compare that to PortSide’s retired oil tanker MARY A. WHALEN, built in 1938, which carried 8,013 barrels and has a 450hp engine. About sixteen Bouchard vessels between the tugs & barges currently operate in the port of NY.
Their Sandy story
The company fleet was not damaged during Sandy; they moved the northeast fleet out of harm’s way.
ID a tug!
Tugs, like sports teams, can be identified by their colors (“livery”). Bouchard vessels have a black hull, bright red house (the upsticking part where the people are) white trim on railings and wheelhouse visors, and a buff smoke stack with no stack insignia.