On Tuesday, privately-held oil barge transport company Bouchard Transportation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The family-owned firm plans to fund its normal operations with debtor-in-possession financing while it moves forward with operational restructuring, and it hopes to "emerge as a stronger enterprise positioned for long-term success."
With debtor-in-possession financing in place, Bouchard says that it intends to pay its employees, suppliers and vendors in full in the ordinary course of business. It has appointed Mark Berger of Portage Point Partners to serve as chief restructuring officer during the Chapter 11 process. Bouchard also said that it intends to fill several open executive management positions during the restructuring process.
According to its filings, Bouchard's top 30 creditors have claims totalling to more than $30 million, all related to goods and services. The largest is a disputed $17 million claim from shipbuilder VT Halter Marine, which has previously built articulated tug and barge (ATB) units for Bouchard.
Bouchard has faced a series of regulatory and financial challenges since the explosion aboard the Bouchard Barge No. 255 off the coast of Texas in October 2017. Two crewmembers - Zachariah Jackson, 28 and Du’jour Vanterpool, 26 - were killed in the blast, and about 2,000 barrels of crude oil were discharged from the barge or consumed in the ensuing fire. The NTSB concluded that the accident stemmed from a lack of effective maintenance and safety management.
In January and February 2020, Bouchard faced allegations of non-payment of wages in several localities. In mid-February, the U.S. Coast Guard issued Captain of the Port safety orders to a limited number of the firm's vessels in Port Arthur and New York Harbor in connection with these allegations.
In March, the firm announced that it had secured financing to cover employee back pay and to pay wages going forward.