Campbell Transportation Has Big Plans For Hancock County, WV
The State Journal
10 December 2015
By Jim Ross
A stretch of Ohio River bank in Hancock County is helping one
company that has focused heavily on coal to diversify into one
that handles petroleum and natural gas liquids as well.
Campbell Transportation, which is based in Houston, Pennsylvania,
has long been a company that moves coal on the Ohio, Monongahela
and Allegheny rivers, with some business on the Kanawha. But
Campbell executives see that coal will continue to decline before
it levels off. At the same time, the market for moving liquids
keeps getting better.
“If you’re going to see growth in the company, you’re not going to
see it on the dry side,” said Dan Lacek, managing director of
operations for the company’s tank barge facility on the Ohio
River. “The growth is on the liquid side.”
That facility is at Congo, a community just south of Newell.
There Campbell has a tank barge fleeting, cleaning and repair
facility. Congo also offers field service on barges down the Ohio
almost to Huntington. In a year or so it will extend that to the
Cincinnati area. The lower part of the Congo facility has a
greenfield site of about 18.71 acres along 3,298 feet of riverbank
that can be used for future development, probably for uses related
to oil or natural gas.
As part of that facility’s growth, Campbell recently hired Mike
Wallace, a longtime worker in the liquids business on the Gulf
Coast, to manage operations involving liquid tank barges and
tankermen. He started at Congo Oct. 12.
Lacek said Campbell hired Wallace because of his experience in the
liquids industry in the Gulf. He was recruited because Campbell
wanted to bring in someone with knowledge of the liquids industry
and delivery service at Congo that people expect and receive on
the Gulf. It helps that Wallace has connections in the South and
is using them to bring business to Congo, Lacek said.
Wallace said growing the liquids business at Congo is not going to
happen overnight, but he expects things to really take off by the
end of 2016.
Campbell purchased Congo in April 2011. That was about the time
development of the gas fields in the Marcellus and Utica Shale
plays took off.
“We’ve got the ability to grow and expand it. That’s why we
brought Mike on board,” Lacek said.
Lacek said Campbell is putting all people at Congo through tank
training, whether they work land side or boat side. That includes
the pilots, logistics management, operations management and
compliance management personnel.
Wallace said, “It’s going to grow. We’re going to make it grow.”
Company President Mike Monahan said Campbell is four years into
its process of diversifying its business. A few years ago, the
company basically hauled coal on the upper Ohio and its
“As you know, coal has been impacted by the War on Coal. The
current administration is 100 percent against coal burning in the
United States,” Monahan said.
As part of that, several coal-burning power plants in Campbell’s
market have shut down, and the amount of coal moved on the upper
Ohio is down. Meanwhile, the movement of petroleum and petroleum
products is increasing as companies drill for natural gas and
natural gas liquids in the Marcellus and Utica shale regions of
Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
“In the last four years, we’ve migrated into other business
areas,” Monahan said. “We operate all the way down the Ohio River.
We tow other people’s barges. We tow a tremendous amount of liquid
barges for customers.”
The growth of the natural gas and natural gas liquids industries
in the Ohio Valley are of particular interest to Campbell, Monahan
said. The proposed Shell ethane cracker at Monaca, Pennsylvania,
is the largest of the possible projects, he said. That one plant
could add 40 to 100 barges to the river, he said.
“As those plants are built out in the next three to five years,
that’s potential growth for Campbell,” Monahan said.
Today Campbell has a diversified customer base, which includes
companies in the steam coal, metallurgical coal, soybean, corn and
steel products markets.
“We have no one customer that makes up more than 14 percent of our
revenues,” Monahan said.
Campbell has hired a number of young, strong managers in
operations, logistics and accounting in recent years to prepare
for the coming growth, Monahan said. Among those is Gary Statler,
formerly a teacher and principal in North Carolina schools who
found his way to the coal industry and from there to become
Campbell’s managing director of safety, regulatory compliance and
And the company is engaged in a long-term project to upgrade its
boats to modern standards for hauling liquid cargo. Those that
cannot be upgraded for whatever reason are scrapped.
“We’re not afraid of changing. We’ve had a lot of changes here —
good changes,” said Peter M. Stephaich, CEO of the family-owned
Stephaich said Campbell Transportation Co. is a privately held,
conservatively managed company.
“We have a strong outside board of directors,” he said. “We try to
take the good of the public world — governance — and the best of
the private world in flexibility,” he said.
“We’re not in this to sell the business, or we probably would have
done that years ago.”