Good Man, Big Heart, Big Texan – Great American Dredger
Randy Boyd, president of RLB Contracting based in Port Lavaca, Texas is a fighter. He’s a dredger and marine construction entrepreneur. Proud and strong, Randy Boyd, takes on the risk and keeps his workers employed rebuilding equipment for the Jones Act dredging industry.
Last year, on April 17, 2018, RLB Contracting’s JONATHON KING BOYD (JKB) Cutterhead Suction Dredge caught fire after puncturing a buried natural gas pipeline in Matagorda Bay, Texas. As a result, the entire vessel was ‘burnt toast’ and a complete loss. Boyd had some tough decisions to make.
What happened ... On April 17, 2018, while the JKB was dredging in Port O’Conner, the vessel punctured a 20-inch natural gas pipeline that was buried in the seabed of Matagorda Bay. According to Boyd, the vessel dropped its spuds and began walking the cutter forward as it removed mud and sediment from the seafloor. Boyd said the cutter set one of its spuds unknowingly into the pipe and when it lifted its spud to walk forward, the natural gas released –then it was only a matter of time before something sparked and ignited the vapor cloud. The good news is that everyone on the vessel had time to evacuate – there were no injuries or deaths resulting from the accident.
The Immediate Aftermath ... Randy Boyd does not mess around. This was his company on the line and its entire existence was hanging in the balance. On any given month, RLB Contracting has 125 employees working on vessels and at his Port Lavaca, Texas facility. His first course of action was to own the accident. He then needed to obtain possession of the vessel post-incident. Finally, he would have to negotiate with the insurance carrier for the best deal.
I spoke with Randy Boyd, in New Orleans at this year’s Gulf Ports Association of America forum which took place in mid-February. Boyd explained to me that he owned the accident and has since implemented procedures that would minimize, if not eliminate, the potential for future pipeline ruptures during dredging operations.
He also told me that due in large part to the safety precautions and abandon ship procedures RLB had in place, “nobody got hurt, and I am so thankful for that.” With nobody killed or injured, in short order, Boyd said, “I sought relief from the Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers to obtain possession of the dredge.” And, he got it.
Boyd then explained to me the insurance part of the equation. He had a decision to make, and this decision relied on his negotiating skills with the insurance carrier.
Boyd said, “timing is everything, I needed the insurance company to move quickly and fairly.” He continued, “I wanted to remain in business, my employees were relying on me,” and he wasn’t about to throw nearly 20 years of existence overboard. As Randy explains, he contacted his insurance company and presented the carrier with a deal.
Boyd explained that he wanted to buy the burnt dredge from the insurance carrier at a fair salvage rate. After applying the deductible, and offering a discount to the insurance company, Boyd told the insurance company he could make a deal.
But, as Boyd explained to me, “I told the insurance company these are my terms and conditions and I need the check by Friday.” By the following Friday, RLB had the check in hand and the deal with the insurance carrier was done.
The Rebuild ... Randy Boyd knows how to build a cutterhead dredge. He’s more than happy to prove it too. Boyd and his employees built a replacement dredge and and put it into service only 211 days after the fire.
Boyd proudly states, “Impressive to say the least for a small business that did this on our own with our own forces.”
The new JKB was built at Boyd’s own RLB Contracting Jones Act facility in Port Lavaca, Texas.
Boyd said, “I knew what I wanted, and I knew what we needed. The plans and specifications were all in my head.” RLB completely repowered, built and fitted-out the new dredge with top of the line equipment. He credits his family, employees and customers for believing in his company.
“My employees and family worked day and night, for 8 months straight building this dredge. My customers stuck with us through it all and I really appreciate their trust and confidence in RLB” said, Boyd.
RLB competes with other dredging companies in the United States. He’s proud of his bidding methodology, and states that RLB has saved tax payers over $20 million due to RLB winning as the lowest bidder on contacts.
Future ... Randy Boyd, his company, family and workers are all in. Boyd said he is looking at a 75% growth rate over the next couple of years. RLB has grown every year since it was launched in “18 years ago,” said Boyd. This year will be no different he said.
We’re with you Randy. RLB is a great American-owned Jones Act company, building ships in America, hiring American workers and doing America’s dredging.