Nation's largest barge firm lays off almost 50 workers

NASHVILLE — The nation's largest barge company has laid off 47 employees, a move related to a drop in its business of hauling grains, coal and other bulk goods down the Mississippi and other rivers.

The layoffs last week affected a mix of Ingram Barge Co. employees who work in offices and on the company's boats, including 21 people based here.

“Any business has to constantly balance their staffing with the volume of work to be done," Ingram spokesman Keel Hunt said. "That's what happened here."

Overall, the private barge company, which is part of Nashville's Ingram family Ingram Industries conglomerate, has 2,185 employees. Ingram Barge's last job cuts affected 16 workers in 2014, Hunt said.

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In 2011, Fortune magazine called Ingram Barge the country's largest carrier with revenues in excess of $1 billion.

Hunt declined to confirm that the drop in business is specifically related in part to a fall in coal shipments and Ingram Barge's reported loss last year of a key public utility client, Dayton Power & Light Co.

An article featured this week at Investing.com cited a barge glut on the Mississippi River that's leaving barge companies counting their losses.

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Specifically, the article cited the collapse of coal shipments to the lowest levels in decades leaving the dry bulk barge fleet chasing too little cargo. It also noted barge lease rates paid to Ingram and other operators more than 30% below the five-year average for February.

Hunt said Ingram Barge plans to provide transitional packages and other assistance to each affected employee.

Led by Chief Executive Orrin Ingram, Ingram Barge operates nearly 4,000 barges with a fleet of more than 80 line haul vessels and 30 tugboats that move goods on rivers in the eastern half of the United States. The company is part of Ingram Industries' Ingram Marine Group.

Follow Getahn Ward on Twitter: @getahn

© 2017 KHOU-TV


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