Monday, December 21, 2015

A few minor changes coming

The Ohio River Blog needs a little refreshing and updating, so I'm planning a couple of minor changes come the first of the year. It's nothing drastic, but doing the same thing off and on for nearly seven years requires a new look every now and then.

As part of that, I'm updating the links on the left side of this page. Some will be changed to reflect new URLs, and some will be deleted. If anyone knows of an Ohio River-related link that could be added, please message me.

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to seven more years.

Research aggravations

River, truck and rail move most of the cargo and freight in this country, but there seems to be a lack of easily available data on the history of certain companies that once were involved in river transport.

For example, yesterday I went online to find some history of Ohio River Co. and Dravo Mechling. If I had wanted to know when Pan Am was formed or when the Chesapeake & Ohio began operations, there would have been little trouble finding the information I needed. But river transport companies have hard-to-find histories, and that is particularly true of companies that no longer are active.

Yes, I know the river is different. Other than upscale cruises, river transport for passengers in the general public disappeared generations ago save for a few ferries. Modern towing companies have little to sell the general public, and to many of them the less we know about them the better. There are probably Homeland Security regulations they must adhere to that further distances them from the public.

The result is that I am still digging to find some dates of importance. A trip to the river archives at Cincinnati is out of the question for the time being, so I will see what I can find at the Point Pleasant River Museum and Learning Center on my next trip up that way.

If anyone has any ideas, send them my way.

Friday, December 18, 2015

M/V Amber Brittany

Sometimes you learn one of your favorite boats is headed your way and you try to get a picture, only to get there ten minutes too late.

You tell yourself you can catch it a few miles down the river in about half an hour, but you remember that you have to pick the wife up from somewhere in about five minutes, and it takes you about twenty to get where she is, so you tell your boat maybe on the next trip.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

M/V Findlay after dark

It's feast or famine when it comes to seeing towboats on the Ohio River in the Greenup and R.C. Byrd pools these days. Today was a feast day. I saw the Marathon and the Findlay around noon or 1 p.m. as they passed Huntington, and tonight I saw them after dark up near Robert C. Byrd.

I got this picture of the Findlay as it waited for permission to enter the lock. As usual, I had no tripod, so I held my camera against a utility pole.

Adam and I saw other boats tonight. There as the Alan P. Hall and the Detroit. We couldn't identify either specifically because of the dark, but we were able to see what kinds of boats they were. And we might have seen the City of Vicksburg, too.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Two news items

FirstEnergy and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio had agreed on a plan to guarantee a market for the coal-fired W.H.Sammis power plant along the Ohio River and the Davis-Besse nuclear plant in northern Ohio. But last week, an administrative law judge put a hold on that agreement.

The settlement had drawn some criticism and some outrage.

There is going to be a lot of discussion about how existing coal-fired power plants will play a role in future power generation when some states are deregulated and all states will have to comply with the new Clean Power Plan.

# # #

And the Washington Post takes a look at the fight over C8 discharges at the former DuPont plant near Parkersburg, W.Va., and Belpre, Ohio.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

M/V Sandy Drake northbound

The M/V Sandy Drake of Crounse Corp. passed Huntington WV this evening pushing 15 barges, heading up the Ohio River to I don't know where. The mouth of the Kanawha, to swap them for 15 loads of Central Appalchian coal? To the Wheeling area to pick up some Northern App coal? Or maybe somewhere else?

Coal traffic on the Ohio is on a downward trend. The question will be how long that trendline continues until it flattens to the new normal.

Two boats on a gray morning (updated)

I saw them both, one at sunrise and the other little after.

In this first shot, in which I did not get the name of the boat, I liked the wave formed by the one lead box barge.


After the first boat went down the river, the M/V Cincinnati came up the river. I didn't get the picture I wanted because it was moving faster than I expected. But this one works anyway.

UPDATE: I'm not sure, but I think the boat in the top three pictures was the M/V James E. Anderson.

Friday, December 4, 2015

New Louisville bridge to open

If only I had the money to go to Louisville tomorrow ...

The new Abraham Lincoln Bridge connecting Louisville with Jeffersonville, Ind., is scheduled to open before daybreak Monday. But tomorrow, people will have the opportunity to walk across the bridge. Access will be from Jeffersonville.

I remember walking bridges around here in the Huntington area when they were closed to traffic because they were about to open or about to close.There was the Silver Memorial Bridge in 1977, closed because of butt weld cracks (I always have to say and type that carefully), the East Huntington Bridge before it opened in 1985 and the old 6th Street Bridge in Huntington after it closed in 1994.

Those of you in the Louisville area, have fun tomorrow.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Catching up

With the Thanksgiving holiday, attention to the family, the need to earn money and Internet outage problems, it's been a while. Plus, I've not seen many boats lately, so there have been fewer opportunities to post new photos.

So here are a couple of things you might find interesting while we get caught up.

First, I had an article in the Waterways Journal recently about plans by Campbell Transportation to diversify into hauling more liquid cargo and servicing liquid barges.

And for those of you with an interest in the coal industry, here is an article from SNL Financial about various efforts to curb or destroy the industry.

More soon, I hope.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A few more details on the AEP-ACBL deal

Most guys I knew spent the day watching football or doing interesting stuff. Me, I spent it trying to build an Excel file of some data I'm interested in. This evening, while my Bengals are on TV, I'm here going through documents looking for interesting stuff.

About everyone on here knows AEP has closed the sale of its River Transportation Operations to ACBL. As AEP is a company with publicly traded stock, it has to make certain disclosures to the Securities and Exchange Commission. I took a look at AEP's most recent filings to see if there was anything interesting about the ACBL deal. There were a few things in the quarterly report. I have copied and pasted some of those below.

To see the entire document, click here.

Here are the excerpts for those who are interested:


Third Quarter of 2015 Compared to Third Quarter of 2014

Earnings Attributable to AEP Common Shareholders from our AEP River Operations segment decreased from $11 million in 2014 to $4 million in 2015 primarily due to a loss on AEPRO's equity investment in IMT due to bankruptcy of an IMT customer.

Nine Months Ended September 30, 2015 Compared to Nine Months Ended September 30, 2014

Earnings Attributable to AEP Common Shareholders from our AEP River Operations segment decreased from $17 million in 2014 to $16 million in 2015 primarily due to a loss on AEPRO's equity investment in IMT due to bankruptcy of an IMT customer, partially offset by lower fuel prices and reduced consumption.


AEP River Operations

Commercial barging operations that transports liquids, coal and dry bulk commodities primarily on the Ohio, Illinois and lower Mississippi Rivers.

In October 2015, we signed an agreement to sell AEPRO to a nonaffiliated party. The AEP River Operations segment is comprised entirely of AEPRO. However, we will retain AEPRO's investment in IMT. See "AEPRO (AEP River Operations Segment)" section of Note 6 for additional information.


Disposition of AEP River Operations
In October 2015, we signed an agreement to sell our commercial barge transportation subsidiary, AEPRO, to a nonaffiliated party.  The sale of AEPRO is subject to regulatory approval including federal clearance pursuant to the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976.  Upon close of the sale, the nonaffiliated party will acquire AEPRO by purchasing all of the common stock of AEP Resources, Inc., the parent company of AEPRO.  The nonaffiliated party will assume certain assets and liabilities of AEPRO, excluding the equity method investment in International Marine Terminals (IMT) which is a bulk commodity transfer facility jointly owned with Kinder Morgan L.P. "C", pension and benefit assets and liabilities and debt obligations.  We expect to net approximately $400 million in cash after taxes, debt retirement and transaction fees.  The sale is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2015. An after tax gain ranging from approximately $100 million to $150 million is expected from the sale subject to working capital and other adjustments.



AEPRO (AEP River Operations Segment)

During the third quarter of 2015, we evaluated bids from prospective buyers, selected a buyer and received approval from AEP's Board of Directors to proceed with the sale to the nonaffiliated party.  In October 2015, we signed an agreement to sell our commercial barge transportation subsidiary, AEPRO, to a nonaffiliated party.  The sale of AEPRO is subject to regulatory approval including federal clearance pursuant to the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976.  Upon close of the sale, the nonaffiliated party will acquire AEPRO by purchasing all of the common stock of AEP Resources, Inc., the parent company of AEPRO.  The nonaffiliated party will assume certain assets and liabilities of AEPRO, excluding the equity method investment in IMT, pension and benefit assets and liabilities and debt obligations.  We will retain ownership of our captive barge fleet that delivers coal to the company's regulated coal-fueled power plant units owned or leased by AEGCo, APCo, I&M, KPCo and WPCo.  We signed a contract with the nonaffiliated party to dispatch and schedule our captive barge fleet for the company's regulated coal-fueled power plant units.  We also contracted with the nonaffiliated party to barge coal for AGR. These agreements with the nonaffiliated party extend through the end of 2016.  The sale is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2015.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Robert Murray on the Clean Power Plan

Robert Murray is the head of Murray Energy, which has a fleet of towboats and barges that haul coal on the Allegheny, Monongahela and upper Ohio rivers. Yesterday he gave a speech in Texas with his views of the Clean Power Plan and President Obama. As you might expect, his views were not favorable.

You can read a piece I wrote about his speech here.

You can watch a video of the entire speech here.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

M/V George W. Jones III

As the morning sun rises over the hills, the George W. Jones III heads up the Ohio River at about Mile 302.

Those barges look like ones I saw tied up at Virginia Point Park at the mouth of the Big Sandy River five days ago. Maybe they were. Maybe they weren't. It's not that important, is it?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

AEP completes sale to ACBL (Updated)

AEP news release is here.

As of noon, there were 97 boats listed on AEP's vessel locator site. Most of them were boats the company has sold to ACBL. There was no mention on the ACBL site of when the boats would have their new color schemes, stack logos or names.

M/V Detroit in a favorite spot

So this past weekend, I got a lesson in how much 16-year-old Adam wants to protect me.

While we were at Cheshire, Ohio, getting pictures of two AEP boats over at Lakin, W.Va., we saw the Detroit come down the river. I got a few pictures.

Then we went down the river a few miles to wait for it to pass Addison with the Kyger Creek and Gavin power plants in the background. This was the spot where I had gotten one of my favorite pictures of the Detroit in October 2010. But in the five years since, the vegetation on the riverbank had grown, and we no longer had such a clear shot.

So, I decided to stand on a guardrail post close to the berm of State Route 7, a pretty busy two-lane road. Adam kept protesting that I could fall off and get hurt, especially if some jerk came by in a pickup and tried to startle me by blowing his horn. Soon after he said that, some moron did just that.

So I got down off the guardrail post and we tried to find a place where we could go down to the river and shoot without trespassing on private property. We found none.

So we walked back up to our previous spot, and I tried holding my camera as high as I could for a test shot. But that wasn't high enough. So I talked Adam into standing on the guardrail post for me, and I told him what kind of photo I wanted. He obliged. As we waited for the Detroit to come, I told him I appreciated him watching out for me and not saying something like, if you fall and hit your head on a rock and die, can I have the car?

The boat came, and Adam got off some good shots.

As we walked back to G&G Grocery, or G.G. Grocery, the boat passed us and I got a few more snaps.

Overall, a good day for stalking and shooting towboats.

Plus Adam is coming around to the idea that these new Marathon boats might be more pleasing to the eye than the new AEP boats are. We'll see if that's a long-term change of opinion.

Monday, November 9, 2015

M/V Nell

As seen on the Kanawha River this past weekend.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

AEP boats gather on Lower Miss

AEP has yet to announce it has closed the sale of its river transportation division to ACBL, although it is supposed to happen sometime this month. But a lot of AEP boats are gathered at or near Mile 155 on the Lower Mississippi, so we can assume the signing of the papers is near.

Meanwhile, Adam and I were in the Point Pleasant WV area yesterday, so we decided to head up to Cheshire OH to see what we could see over at the AEP dock at Lakin WV. As it turned out, not a lot other than the motor vessels Roger W. Kenney and the Chuck Zebula doing some kind of dance as the smaller boat appeared to be moving out of the way of the larger one, perhaps by coincidence as it was picking up barges, or perhaps not.

We also got to see the M/V Detroit in a nice spot yesterday. More on that later.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

AEP to close River Ops sale to ACBL next month

That's what AEP CEO Nick Akins said in a conference call with investment analysts last week after his company announced its third-quarter earnings results.

There was no mention of the process for taking the AEP boats out of action or sending them to ACBL docks leading up to whatever date it is that the sale will close. With November almost on us, I assume that will be sometime soon.

It's going to be odd seeing the Buckeye State and other AEP boats in ACBL colors and probably with new names. That assumes ACBL is keeping all of them. For all I know, it might plan to sell the boats it didn't really want but had to buy to get the boats it wanted most.

That's how it works in the newspaper business. I know, because the daily newspaper I used to work for was sold along with three others, and the transaction didn't seem to make sense given the operating philosophy of our new owners. I said as much (diplomatically, of course) in the Page One article announcing the sale. Sure enough, within a few months we were sold again. The second new owner bought when a lot of people were overpaying for newspapers. The Great Recession hit, cutbacks were made and I was out of the job I had had for more than thirty years.

What happens with the boats and barges under ACBL's ownership should provide interesting. If nothing else, it will give a lot of us something to talk about and to aim our cameras at.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Three photos from a Saturday afternoon.

Its work here on this earth done, a deserted beer bottle rests in the cold sand of the Ohio River bank.

The M/V Galveston Bay upbound.

And away from the river, the leaves in the woods near my home are changing. I know a lot of people like fall, and two people in my family like winter, but give me spring and summer, please.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Seaplane sinks in Ohio River

But it was recovered the next day, and it could be back in the air by spring.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

M/V Paula Ruble and M/V Wally Roller

Early morning in the half hour before and after sunrise is one of my favorite times for driving along the Ohio River looking for something to see. This morning I saw two boats -- the Paula Ruble and the Wally Roller. First, a few pictures of both boats as seen during that golden hour.

Now here's my question. What was this thing at the head of the Wally Roller's tow? For some reason my autofocus didn't work as I had expected. I can make out the word "Siemens" on this piece of machinery, but that's about it.

Any information would help satisfy my curiosity.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

News roundup 10/10/2015

For those of you into Ohio River wildlife, this is the 25th anniversary of the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge.

From the Marietta Times:

The Ohio River Islands Festival will be held on Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. at the refuge, located at 3982 Waverly Road, in Williamstown. It is free and open to all ages.


Apparently there will be no one standard regulating industrial discharge of mercury into the Ohio River. According to the Columbus Dispatch:

States along the Ohio River will decide how and where companies test to determine how much mercury they release into the waterway, according to a decision by the multistate commission overseeing the river’s health.


And Kentucky officials say the lower McAlpine pool is safe for recreation again now that the algae bloom is dissipating.

Friday, October 9, 2015

M/V J.S. Lewis passes Huntington

A guy who works for Amherst Madison got ahold of me to let me know the boat was in my area.

I was first able to catch it at the boat ramp at the mouth of the Guyandotte River.

Then I went up the Ohio side to old Lock and Dam 52, but right before the Lewis came around the bend, a really heavy rain fell.

You win some, you lose some. As I told several people today, when life hands you lemons, throw them back as hard as you can. Those things hurt.

More photos of the Lewis are on my Flickr photostream.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Environmental news roundup, 10/8/2015

There's been some environmental news related to the Ohio River the past couple of days, so lets' get started.

FirstEnergy has received approval from Pennsylvania regulators to ship coal ash by barge from a power plant on the Ohio River to a disposal site on the Mon.

The Great Ohio River swim has been canceled because of the algae problem.

An Ohio woman has been awarded $1.6 million by an Ohio jury that says a chemical discharged into the Ohio River by a DuPont factory in West Virginia caused her kidney cancer.

And the New York Times has issued a correction on an article linked here several days ago about the algae outbreak.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A big old Asian carp caught at R.C. Byrd

You know those Asian carp that wildlife biologists are afraid will cause problems in the Ohio River. A big one was found at the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

M/V AEP Leader

Seen today passing Huntington.

The next time I see it, will it have this paint scheme and name? Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Christening of the M/V Findlay, part 4

Final batch.

Christening of the M/V Finday, part 3

Third batch.

Next (and final) batch at 12:30 p.m.

Christening of the M/V Findlay, part 2

Second batch.

Next batch, 11:30 a.m.

Christening of the M/V Findlay, part 1

Here are some photos from the christening ceremony of the Marathon towboat Findlay on Sept. 3. It was a hot, dry, sunny day -- one that I wish we could have today, but that is not to be.

There are so many pictures that I'm spreading them over several entries. There were a couple of cute kids there, but I don't usually post recognizable pictures of other people's kids anymore without a parent's permission. Too many things can go wrong.

So here is the first batch of pictures.

Next batch at 11 a.m.