Cenac Towing

Pioneering the tank-barge industry through family generations.

Cenac Towing is the epitome of excellence, and they know it. That’s why they don’t trust anyone but their expert crew to build, maintain and operate all of their vessels and top-of-the-line barges. This strict in-house philosophy has been at the heart of the Cenac family business since the 1920s, when Jock Cenac began transporting crude oil.

Since Jock Cenac established the company and gained a renowned foothold in the waterway transportation industry, the company has passed through two more Cenac generations: Arlen Cenac Sr. and, since 1981, his son Arlen “Benny” Cenac.

Today, under Benny’s direction, Cenac Towing is still pioneering its way through the US Inland Waterways System, transporting crude oil, residual fuels, feedstocks, lubricants, petrochemicals refined products and LPGs with the newest and most innovative inland push boat and tank barge fleet for all major oil companies and refineries.

Benny has been a part of the ship riding business since he was five years old, and this, according to Benny, has molded him into the one-of-a-kind business owner he is today. “Hats off to the guys that can operate while sitting in an ivory tower,” Benny said. “I can’t operate this thing without having my hands on everything. I launch every boat; I test each boat when they’re built — it’s just the way I was brought up.

“I worked on boats every summer growing up,” Benny continued. “My dad would say, ‘go ride with Captain T-Lin for a little while,’ and I’d go ride the boat and barge unit. There aren’t many operators who run this business who can get in a boat, take it off and run it. I’m proud of that, and I’m passing that down to my children already.”

Knowing how to run a boat isn’t the only value the Cenac family has instilled in their current showrunner. Benny has held firm to his Grandfather’s ideology.

“You’ve got to take the attitude to stay ahead of where the industry is headed. Instead of wasting your time complaining about it, put your energy into preparing your company and have it ready, ” Benny recalled. That’s why all Cenac Towing’s 36 boats and 70 tank barges are less than five years old, identical and built onsite.
By building identical top class vessels, Cenac Towing is eliminating the learning curve for crews switching ships between runs, and to utilize this even further they keep a spare ship onsite at all times. “By building ships where everything all the way down to the TV remote in the cabin is completely identical, we break out of the mold of other companies that believe in 100% utilization. We don’t have to wait for a ship to go through inspection and cleaning. If we get a new job, a crew can easily board the extra vessel and head out while their previous ship passes through the steps for reentry. And our customers love this.

“While it is an expensive operation, it’s the way that my grandfather did it and why we’re still here today,” Benny said, reflecting on the long history of the Cenac company. “But none of this would happen if it weren’t for the hell of a good group of working people here.”

Benny regards his whole crew as family, all 400 of them from the captains to deckhands. Benny was raised on long-term employee boats in his childhood summers. They helped to shape him into the man he is today, and he hasn’t forgotten that. “I like to promote from within so that I have a personal relationship with every captain.

“When I’m away for the weekend with my kids, I always know that I’m leaving the company in very competent hands — that my crew will handle things the same way I would. Together, our team has over 300 years of experience in marine tank barge operations; that’s what makes us the irreplaceable team that we are.”

-Kevin O’Sullivan

Categories: Maritime