Southwest Shipyard LP

Southwest Shipyard LP President Sanjay Rao believes in providing his employees with every possible tool they need for success. This includes everything from upgrading equipment to providing air conditioning units for workers during an unseasonably hot summer in the company's headquarters in Texas.

“We are always looking for the best equipment, and invest $2.5 million a year in maintenance-related capital expenditures,” says Rao, who joined the company in 1996 and became its president in 1998. The company as founded in 1954 as a fleeting facility for park barges.

Rao's emphasis on investment ultimately pays off when it comes to the services it is able to provide to its clients in the commercial and government marine industries. “I want not to be the lowest-cost provider, but the best value provider in the business for our customers,” he says. “I try to put myself in the customers' shoes and find out what they really want from us while also making sure our company is healthy and that shareholders are seeing a return on their investment.”

Range of Services

The Channelview, Texas-based company provides gas freeing and cleaning services, dry docking, inspections, repairs, painting, conversion and other marine maintenance services to customers. Most of the company's business involves servicing inland tank barges and other vessels for large operators who lease them to refineries, chemical companies and others for transporting cargo to and from the Gulf of Mexico between Corpus Christi and New Orleans.

In addition to its headquarters in Channelview, Southwest Shipyard operates two facilities in Houston and one in Galveston. The company operates 12 floating dry docks, four marine railways and three transfer rails, giving it the ability to offer customers a fast turnaround.

Southwest Shipyard also specializes in helping barge owners maintain their certificates of inspection from the United States Coast Guard. The certificates are mandated by law.

“We're the largest company of our kind in the United States and a one-stop shop for our customers,” Rao says. “We can pick up barges for inspection, do repairs, rehabs … you name it, we do it.”

The company also builds barges for customers, including two ferries for the Texas Department of Transportation built earlier this year.

The company's Galveston facility includes a production line capable of producing 10,000 barrel double hull tank barges as well as deck and specialty barges under 500 tons. The company’s Brady Island, Houston, facility is capable of building up to 30,000 barrel inland and offshore liquid tank barges and up to 260-by-72-by-16-foot offshore deck barges, as well as other specialty pressure, tank and deck barges.

The new construction portion of its business is expected to increase from 30 percent to up to 45 percent of its overall business this year, as many of the barges and vessels it services are nearing their end of service. Barges are usually replaced by their owners every 28 to 30 years, Rao says.

Another growth area for the company is expected to be work on tugboats, which are in the process of being regulated by the Coast Guard in a manner similar to barges and other vessels, requiring more frequent maintenance.

Southwest Shipyard has continued to see steady business despite the slow economy, and carries no debt, something Rao says he considers one of his proudest accomplishments.

“I'm most proud of taking this company from making $18 million when I started to $130 million at this time,” Rao explains. “We've maintained a steady cash flow and customer base over the past 15 years.”

Expanding their Skills

All Southwest Shipyard employees are trained and certified in a number of specialties, including welding, Rao says.

Senior management employees are encouraged to pursue MBA degrees, which the company helps to pay for. In fact,Rao himself is pursuing his MBA from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The EMBA program at MIT is a cutting-edge program which has provided Rao tools to improve management systems at the company. “Management education is very important to us … I encourage managers and all employees to educate themselves to become better,” Rao says.

The company believes a highly skilled staff will translate into a higher quality of service to customers. “Our goal is to provide the best value service to all of our customers on every project,” the company says. “Providing a high-quality product or service on every project is the focus of every employee, supervisor and manager. Our managers ensure that quality is designed into every step of our execution process.”

A Healthy Environment 

Southwest Shipyard maintains a safe environment for its employees. In April 2011, the company's efforts were noted with Excellence in Safety and Improvement in Safety awards from the Shipbuilders Council of America. The awards recognize the company's recordable incident rate of 3.8, well below the industry average of 7.8, the company says.

The company employs a team of experienced safety professionals who develop safety procedures and training programs for all employees and work in conjunction with local and federal agencies to ensure regulations are followed, it adds.

“Providing our employees a safe and healthy working environment is our number one priority,” the company says.

“Our facilities are fully permitted to execute our daily operations successfully in full compliance of local, state and federal laws,” it adds. •mt

Corporate Head Office

Transportation and Logistics International

Cringleford Business Centre
Intwood Road
Cringleford, Norwich, UK
NR4 6AU

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North American Office

Transportation and Logistics International

Finelight Media
207 E. Ohio Street Suite 351
Chicago, IL 60611


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