Saturday, April 15, 2017

AO 102 (Updated)

You never know what you'll see while you're driving on a county road in Lawrence County, Ohio.

In this case, it was a barge at Superior Marine just outside the corporation limits of South Point, Ohio. (As the road marker says, Southernmost point in Ohio. Overlooks two rivers, three states.).

When I saw this, it reminded me of the interview I did with Dale Manns, the founder of Superior Marine, last fall for the Waterways Journal. Then my memory took be back farther.

The "AO" on the barge ID tells me it was built for Ashland Oil. That means the barge must have been built before Marathon Ashland Petroleum was formed in, what, 1998? Barges after that had "MAP" in their ID numbers.

And that reminded me of a news conference I attended in Jeffersonville, Ind., in the mid-1990s. Ashland Oil was announcing its Ashland Petroleum subsidiary was having Jeffboat build a bunch of double-skinned tank barges. Ashland Oil wanted local media to attend the news conference, so it put a bunch of us on a corporate jet and flew us down to Jeffersonville for the afternoon presser.

That was back when John R. Hall was CEO of Ashland Oil, or Ashland Inc. as it probably was known at that time. It was also when Jeffboat and ACBL were owned by CSX. Yes, that CSX. The railroad company that was into several lines of business at the time. I remember asking Hall at the news conference if his position on the CSX board of directors had any bearing on Ashland's decision to have the barges built by Jeffboat. He said no, there was no connection.

Back to AO 102: I don't know what the barge was doing at Superior Marine. Was it being repaired? Upgraded? Dismantled? Converted into something else? None of the above? I don't know. I just know that the folks at Superior have invested a lot of money in expanding their business in recent years, and it was beyond interesting to see a big barge like that hauled out of the water for whatever work is being done on it.

UPDATE: I've been looking at the pictures of this barge closer up. I noticed that it could just as easily say A-Zero-One-Zero-Two as it could A-Oh-One-Zero-Two. So which is it? I don't know. But my memories about the trip to Jeffersonville stand.

If anyone knows what the numbers really are, please let me know.