Marquette Transportation experiences expanding success
The newly constructed 9,300 HP M/V Loree Eckstein.

As he looks back on the eve of his 30th anniversary with Marquette Transportation, Executive Vice President of the River Division Darin Adrian notes how much has changed over the years.

When Adrian punched the clock on his first day in 1986, Marquette consisted of four towboats and about 60 barges. Fast-forward to today where Marquette is a cargo transport industry-leader stocked with over 130 towboats and more than 1,000 barges.

Marquette is in the final stages of a strategic expansion program within the company’s River and Gulf-Inland Divisions. This effort places an emphasis on upgrading Marquette’s already expansive fleet and equipment. As a result, the marine transportation services giant can continue its track record of supreme client satisfaction and offer unique, innovative logistical solutions.

“Even with the exponential growth we’ve had, we’ve maintained a small-company, family feel,” says Adrian, Executive Vice President of Marquette’s River Division. “The Eckstein Family started it that way and kept it that way even with well over 1,600 employees now. There’s a real comradery, not only in the office and those in the land-based side of the business, but also those on a vessel. Anyone on a boat can call up and talk to me, or talk to [CEO] John Eckstein because we’re all important parts of the machine.”

While the workers remain the heart and soul of Marquette, the company’s muscle is its diverse fleet – everything from “1,000 horsepower vessels to 10,000 horsepower vessels and everything in between,” Adrian says with glowing pride. Considering Marquette’s vast roster of boats, it affords clients the luxury of not having to coordinate with more than one company when sending cargo. Marquette is capable of handling any material that falls under these umbrellas: dry cargo (grain, salt, fertilizer and feed products), liquid cargo (oil, refined gasoline, petrochemicals and agricultural chemicals) and even uncommon specialty items like military equipment, construction machinery and riverboat casinos.

As part of its recent growth, Marquette has constructed three state-of-the-art 9,300-horsepower inland towboats, 11 new Z-drive boats with 2,000 horsepower and repowered 15 already-owned towboats. These upgrades increase the towboats capabilities and efficiency.

Depending on the location of the point of origin and the final cargo destination, shipments are split between Marquette’s three divisions – the River Division, the Gulf-Inland Division and the Offshore Towing Charter Division. For more than a decade, those three Marquette divisions have worked in harmony, expanding the range and reach of markets for clients.

Every division leader is an expert in the capabilities of their fleet and the nuances of the waterways the vessels traverse. The River unit includes more than 50 line-haul vessels capable of taking bulk goods up and down the navigable inland waterways of the Mississippi River and its tributaries. It remains the most cost-effective way to move materials. The Gulf-Inland operation focuses on marine towing solutions along the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway from Brownsville, Texas, to St. Marks, Florida. The fleet features more than 60 vessels, including 11 new Z-Drive vessels suited for bulk commodity and project cargo movement. Finally, the Offshore fleet consists of nine tugboats built to handle oilfield service and construction support. Marquette’s Offshore Division also can handle dredge support, anchor handling and contract towing.

For more challenging, logistical shipments, all three Marquette shipping divisions work like a track and field relay team, staying in communication with each other and passing the baton (cargo) to one another when the conditions of the waterways shift. Marquette calls this “Seamless Transportation,” and prides itself on tackling the toughest logistics puzzles clients can toss their way.   

“We like to say, ‘We can move it from blue water, to brown water and all points in between,’” Adrian says. “And that’s what we mean by ‘Seamless.’ If there’s a way to get it to where the customer needs it to go by water, then we can get it there. We’re sure of that. But to do that, we’re in constant communication with all divisions. There’s a lot of crossover in what we all do.”

Marquette representatives also like to trumpet the green benefits of marine transport – green as in environment-friendly and saving money.

On the economic side, shipping via barge remains the most cost-effective mode for businesses, with Marquette offering some of the most competitive quotes in the industry. Placing cargo in Marquette’s qualified hands can save customers 35 percent on transportation costs. As an added assurance, all shipment handlers are trained, onboard crews and top logistics specialists in the office.

“Timeliness is something we pride ourselves on as a company and is something that’s continued to take on heightened importance over the years,” Adrian says. “Our equipment doesn’t sit around. There’s not a lot of down time. In fact, today we have over 30 boats on the upper Mississippi River between St Louis and St Paul, so on average, you’ll find a Marquette boat every 20 miles.”

By William Kalec



Categories: Maritime