Posted by Jay W. Curry

Edward Shearer, President of the Shearer Group, talks about marine commercial vessel design.

Please excuse any typos in this hasty transcript.


Jay Curry: And we’re back. Hello Texas, welcome to Texas Business Radio. We got a great program going. And this segment is going to be particularly interesting. I think you’re going to enjoy this. We’re going to talk about the inland marine industry. And we have one of the experts right here in the studio. Matt Register had to step out and I’m Jay Curry, your host for this segment. We’re going to get right into it. But before we do, let me remind you that you can sit back and relax, you don’t need to take any notes. You can go to Texas Business Radio at any time, you’ll be able to see the entire segment, all the segments, every segment we’ve ever done on any topic. And you can also call in on our 24 hour call in line, which is 844-814-8144. And of course, as you know, you can always use #TBR, as in Texas Business Radio. Send us that tweet and we’ll, we’ll get you some answers. Give us a call any time, we’ll get you the answer, we’ll get it on the air for you. So we’re going to get into the inland marine industry. We have Ed Shearer, Founder of The Shearer Group, a pretty remarkable company. Ed thank you for joining us.

Ed Shearer: Thank you for inviting me.

Jay Curry: So, tell us a little bit about The Shearer Group. What’s that, what’s that all about?

Ed Shearer: We are naval architects, marine engineers and marine surveyors located here in Houston. We do business primarily all over the nation, some foreign. We primarily con… we concentrate on the inland marine equipment; towboats, barges, dry dock, floating crane barges, facilities, things like this. That move commerce up and down the rivers and along the Gulf Coast here in the U.S.

Jay Curry: Okay. So we’re talking about, not out in the Gulf, we’re talking about in, in, inland. So, it’s the rivers…

Ed Shearer: Yes.

Jay Curry: The lakes.

Ed Shearer: Some, some lakes. We do, some of our equipment moves up on the Great Lakes in a limited amount. But primarily along the Gulf Coast, Gulf inter-coastal waterway from Corpus to… Oh, I’m sorry, Brownsville over to Tampa. We have some product, some of our products that we’ve designed move up on down the East Coast of Chesapeake Bay, New York, things like this, as long as you’re in what they call protected waters. We also have some equipment on the west coast.

Jay Curry: Really? So how do you define, there’s a particular laws that define, you were saying it has to start at a U.S. port, into the U.S. port that it’s got certain requirements. Is that inland and maritime? What is that?

Ed Shearer: The government law, law, it’s called the Jones Act, for lack of a better term, been around for many, many, many years. Any product moving commerce, moving between two U.S. ports has to be carried in U.S. built, U.S. flag, U.S. crude vessels.

Jay Curry: Okay.

Ed Shearer: Ships, tugs, barges, towboats, things like that.

Jay Curry: But that wouldn’t affect you much and you’re not doing the Gulf type stuff, you’re specifically designing to be able to navigate through rivers.

Ed Shearer: That’s true.

Jay Curry: So, that’s got to be pretty unique. Pretty big business in Texas, right?

Ed Shearer: Yes it is. Of course the export and import of petroleum products, refined products, crude oil, coming in and out of Houston. The area then along Corpus and Brownsville, places like that. New Orleans is the, one of the largest ports in the world for dry bulk cargo’s; coal, grain, things like this. Houston is ranked right up there with the important and export of dry products, plus liquids.

Jay Curry: Okay. And we’re doing the design for these, both the toll and the… What do you call it?

Ed Shearer: The barges?

Jay Curry: Ship?

Ed Shearer: Well, the barges…

Jay Curry: Are they ships or boats or what?

Ed Shearer: Well, they’re, the propulsion part of it is called a towboat. And he will lash several or up to 40, 50 barges together…

Jay Curry: Right.

Ed Shearer: As a single unit. Get the tow and lash it back in the tow, as they call it, it’s a towboat. And you end up with a single unit that the captain can stop, turn, back, handle it as a single unit like he would a ship. But the thing is, he can drop a barge off, he can pick a barge up, like a railroad car.

Jay Curry: Yeah. I was going to say that sounds like the road car, where they can just put tons and tons. And these things hold, they’re huge, right?

Ed Shearer: The barge, what they call a standard hopper barge is usually a 195 to 200 feet long, 35 feet wide, can carry about 1,750 tons of product.

Jay Curry: How would that relate to, say a train?

Ed Shearer: I believe the ratio is something like 17 rail cars per barge.

Jay Curry: Per barge?

Ed Shearer: And then 70 some trucks for a barge like that.

Jay Curry: Wow!

Ed Shearer: The barges that, or you see a lot around the Houston area are what they call a tank or liquid cargo barges. And they’re usually 300 feet long, about 54 feet wide, carry about a million… over a million gallons, usually about 30,000 barrels of product. And they can handle, I think it’s like 30 rail cars…

Jay Curry: Wow!

Ed Shearer: Maybe 40 rail cars and then a whole bunch of trucks. So…

Jay Curry: These tow deals can do many, many barges, right?

Ed Shearer: Yeah. Usually the big barges are in tows of two to three barges.

Jay Curry: Right.

Ed Shearer: The small are the 200 foot, what we call dry cargo barges. They’re usually running on the Gulf Coast or they’re using, you know, a tow of three to four barges on the Mississippi River. They’re unlimited because there’s no locks to go through there. So you’ll see tow’s of 30 to 40 barges going up and down.

Jay Curry: No kidding. So take 40 times 17, that’s how many train car equivalents.

Ed Shearer: Right.

Jay Curry: That’s, that’s huge. You also said that you can go from south Texas all the way up to Chicago through our rivers.

Ed Shearer: Through the system, yeah. There’s, I forget how many miles of navigable rivers but from Brownsville to Pittsburgh to Chicago, St. Paul Minneapolis.

Jay Curry: It’s a major part of our economy, not just in Texas but all over the country.

Ed Shearer: Yes.

Jay Curry: And the world, I guess, in reality. But The Shearer Group is pretty unique. You’re designing these barges and towboats versus tugboats. I grew up calling them tugboats But the reality is they’re towing. Right? They’re not…

Ed Shearer: Right.

Jay Curry: They’re not pulling behind.

Ed Shearer: Tug, tug boats have pointy bows. Tug boats usually have a barge on the side or they’ll pull it behind. And they use, we’re used for ship docking. A towboat has a big square bow and he’s used to lash…

Jay Curry: Push.

Ed Shearer: On the back. He’s use to push, right.

Jay Curry: And you guys are very, kind of been very innovative as a company in some of the designs. Can you tell us a little bit about what you’ve been doing unique?

Ed Shearer: Several years ago we used existing technology, which is called, they’re called Z drives. Which is basically a big outboard motor that hangs down through the hollow of the vessel. These were very, used and very successful in Europe and on some of the tugboats on the east and west coast. And actually on the Gulf Coast. But they had never been applied to an inland river towboat.

Jay Curry: Was that good old US resistance? Is that what that was all about?

Ed Shearer: Trying to get the U.S. market to change is…

Jay Curry: Difficult.

Ed Shearer: Is a very, very difficult. So, we had one client who we talked to and this was in 2007. And we did a design for him for a 3,000 horsepower twin screw towboat, utilizing these…

Jay Curry: Z.

Ed Shearer: Z drives.

Jay Curry: Right.

Ed Shearer: Because the shaft goes in to the unit horizontally. It goes through a right angle gear, it’s a vertical shaft that goes down to another…

Jay Curry: Right.

Ed Shearer: Right angle gear that goes to provide propeller. You have 360 degree rotation of these units and 100 percent thrust in any direction. So you don’t have…

Jay Curry: And it’s revolutionary in that it’s more efficient. What? Cheaper to build?

Ed Shearer: It’s very efficient. It’s about the same price or the same cost as a conventional boat, due to the savings in labor of installing the units. Which basically drop through a hole in the haul, bolt down, you hook up the drive shaft, you hook up the controls. As opposed to building all the shafting, all the alignment for the engines, all the rudders, all the hydraulics, all this other stuff. That client, the client, back in 2008 the first boat came out. It proved well beyond expectations of what we had looked at. He built three more boats to that design. Then he turned around and built two more on top of that and he built two smaller boats.

Jay Curry: So now it’s becoming the thing.

Ed Shearer: Yes.

Jay Curry: You revolutionized and this is an industry, been around a long time.

Ed Shearer: Oh yes. Yes.

Jay Curry: And what are you doing today? You were talking a little bit about trying to improve the cost and efficiencies with the materials that you use today. Is that kind of a new…

Ed Shearer: Materials. We’re looking into diesel electric propulsion, which is going to be more efficient. Because instead of having one or two main engines driving two propellers, you’ll have four to six generators that drive electric motors, that drive the propellers. So therefore when you, the load demand, the generators will come online or go off line. So if the boat’s sitting there pushing maybe one empty barge, you’ll maybe have one or two generators running. So your fuel efficiencies are…

Jay Curry: So there is a way to revolutionize a very, very old industry.

Ed Shearer: Yes.

Jay Curry: And The Shearer Group is a major participant in making that happen across the United States. Right here from Texas. So…

Ed Shearer: Yes.

Jay Curry: Folks we’ve been talking to Ed Shearer, who is the Founder. And now you call yourself the Principal Naval Architect. Right?

Ed Shearer: Yes.

Jay Curry: So, Ed fascinating story. If somebody wanted to get a hold of you. How would they do that?

Ed Shearer: Our Web site is shearer-group.com, phone number here in Houston is 281-532-2080.

Jay Curry: OK. That’s shearer…

Ed Shearer: -group.

Jay Curry: Group, as in S H E A R E R.

Ed Shearer: Right.

Jay Curry: You got it. Ed thank you. This has been very interesting. Folks I hope you’ve enjoyed it. We’ve got to go pay a couple bills. We’re going to be right back with another great guest. And don’t go anywhere.

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About the Author
Jay W. Curry

Jay W. Curry

Along with hosting “Texas Business Radio”, Jay is a Professional Certified Coach and Master Chair facilitating four Houston-based Vistage peer groups. In addition to being a best selling non-fiction author, the 2015 release of his award winning novel, Nixon and Dovey: the Legend Returns, adds novelist to his title. Jay holds a BS in Mathematics from Oklahoma State and an MS in Computer Science from Kansas State. You can learn more about Jay HERE.

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