Boasso America's new $14 million depot serves growing tank container market

Dec. 1, 2004
THE NEW $14 million headquarters for Boasso America Corp in Chalmette, Louisiana, was opened just in time to meet growing demands prompted by an upturn

THE NEW $14 million headquarters for Boasso America Corp in Chalmette, Louisiana, was opened just in time to meet growing demands prompted by an upturn in the tank container industry, says Walter Boasso, founder and chief executive officer.

“After we moved in, we really didn't have the luxury to grow into the facility at a reasonable pace,” he adds. “But it all happened at the right time. We realized the efficiency almost immediately.”

Having been in the tank container business for many years, Boasso used his experience to forecast the US economic comeback. “I think things have leveled out,” he adds.

Boasso began earning experience when he initiated his career in 1979 at the age of 19. While he was in college (he graduated from the University of New Orleans in 1983), he worked afternoons at a Port of New Orleans ship-cleaning company where one of the customers asked him to clean some tank containers. Boasso seized the opportunity. “I started out with a box of Tide and a brush,” he recalls.

As Boasso worked nights and weekends, and as customers sought more of his services, the young entrepreneur recognized the need for a full-service tank container facility so that in 1985 he founded Gulf States Marine Terminal Inc that became today's Boasso America.

He says that Boasso America was the first North American company of its kind to receive wide range ISO 9002 certification. In 2000, Boasso America became a partner company with the American Chemistry Council Responsible Care Initiative.

Almost from the beginning, Boasso says he has been an advocate for the intermodal industry, including acting as a hazardous materials coordinator for steamship lines and chemical companies. He conducts seminars on tank container procedures and emergency response across the United States and South America. In addition, he served on the Port of New Orleans Board of Commissioners where he was elected chairman in 2001.

In November 2003, he was elected to the Louisiana State Senate, District 1, where among other committee assignments, he was appointed to Transportation, Highways, and Public Works.

Boasso also is active in the International Tank Container Organization, the New Orleans Intermodal Society, and the Louisiana Motor Transport Association.

Economic cycles

All of these activities have enhanced his ability to focus on the tank container industry and what he says are its four-year economic cycles, including the recent downturn and the current recovery. “Operators now are so stretched for tanks that new tank containers are booked before they ever get to the ground,” he says.

However, he is concerned about the future for the industry, if oil prices continue to rise and stainless steel prices stay high. “Just how that will affect the industry remains a question,” Boasso says. “There are a lot of unknowns.”

Pointing to the construction boom and other growth in China and an expected similar situation in India, he wonders if the United States economy can remain competitive with the increased Asian trade.

In the tank container industry that typically has a 30% to 40% variance in monthly sales, the way to survive is to diversify and emphasize customer service, he says.

More space

That philosophy drove Boasso's decision to move the headquarters to the new area in Chalmette where more space was available in a long-term lease. Here the senior management team oversees operations: Scott Giroir, operations; Scott Leonard, facility planning and maintenance; Robby Showalter, chief executive officer; Mike Allange, management information systems; and Mike Sperber, sales and marketing.

The new 90,000-square-foot facility on 46 fenced and gated acres in the New Orleans port area provides tank container services that include cleaning, heating, inspection, repair, testing, modification, empty and loaded storage, and refurbishment. The company also offers heavy lifting and railcar transloading.

At any given time, there will be 2,000 tank containers parked on the site. About 120 tank containers are serviced each day.

Complementing the service center is a trucking division with intermodal tank container emphasis that operates within the United States. The company overall employs about 200 drivers — approximately 70 company employees and another 130 or so owner-operators. The company owns about 395 drop frame tank container chassis and long-term leases another 250.

In addition to the new headquarters in Chalmette, Boasso America has container depots in Houston, Texas; Chicago, Illinois; Detroit, Michigan; Charleston, South Carolina; and Jacksonville, Florida.

At Chalmette, employees refurbish, reinsulate, and reclad containers. Some workers are trained for specialty work on tanks that haul refrigerated gases. Others conduct pressure testing and component repairs. The company handles about five hydro tests a day. Two 10,000-gallon test water storage tanks are adjacent to the testing bays.

In one section on the property, containers are painted in dedicated bays. Another section contains a full-service shop that handles tank container chassis repairs.

Wash bays

“We do it all,” says Nicky Macheca, Chalmette tank operations director, pointing to the eight-bay tank cleaning center where a new wastewater treatment system is being installed by John-Henry Enterprises Inc.

In the wash bays, four high-pressure, low-volume Kelton systems (now produced by Floyd Peacock Co Inc) include five, 500-gallon vats. The hot water washer provides 21 gallons per minute at 200ÞF at 600 PSI or 11 gallons per minute at 325ÞF at 150 to 300 psi. A heavy duty FMC-John Bean pump drives the system.

Near the wash bays, 24 stations are available for steam heating. Generating the steam are three boilers: one low-pressure from Superior Boiler Works and Welding Ltd and two high-pressure from Fulton Boiler Works Inc and Williams and Davis Boilers Inc.

Boasso America has installed a new state-of-the-art wastewater reduction system that eliminates 80% of the wastewater volume, leaving only a dry residue to be removed.

The vast majority of the waste stream is generated from the second and third rinse of the ISO container. Heels and initial rinse water are segregated and two succeeding rinses generate most of the stream that requires reduction.

Developed by RGF Environmental in coordination with John Henry Enterprises at the direction of Boasso America, the system encompasses all of the company's needs in waste reduction.

The system gathers wastewater from the floor trench system in the wash bays, first via a 600-gallon centrifugal coalescing clarifier. This cone-shaped unit is designed to settle solids and separate and skim free oils from the stream utilizing centrifugal force. The effluent from the clarifier is then directed to a 7,400-gallon cone-shaped staging tank.

An advanced oxidation process is used to continuously recirculate the 7,400-gallon staging tank. The process is designed to reduce the potential chemical oxygen demand as well as the biological oxygen demand that may be present in the waste stream. The process also assists in settling suspended solids in the staging tank by oxidizing the particles so they will coagulate and drop. The effluent from the unit is then directed to either one of two RGF flash evaporation units.

These units are designed to evaporate the entire liquid portion of the waste stream using a patented flash evaporation process. All that remains of the waste stream is a dry residue that is periodically collected and discarded as per local codes.

In addition, Boasso America will also be able to utilize waste engine oil from the truck fleet as a fuel source in the flash evaporators. These units are equipped with waste oil burners that will eliminate yet another liquid hauled from the facility. The use of the waste oil offsets natural gas usage to reduce operating expenses.

Orders administration

As the various work orders for services are assigned and completed, they are coordinated by an office overseen by Deborah Hodges. Service orders come in by fax, telephone, and e-mail.

Shop personnel report work on paper forms and forward them to the office where they are entered into a company-in house-designed computer system.

With all of this in place, Boasso says he believes that diversification is the key for success in the tank container industry. Not long ago he looked around for another niche for Boasso America and settled on a tilt storage tank for dry bulk products. The non-code portable tank, built by Brenner Tank LLC, comes in various capacities and can be filled with non-hazardous products horizontally or vertically, then transported to the customer's site where it is put in a vertical position. Reinke Manufacturing Co builds the special chassis to handle the tank.

“We wanted to find ways to utilize the assets we have when we developed the tilt tank,” Boasso said. “We spent more than three years working on the design.”

Robert Slate, who oversees the Tilt-Tank Services division, says the Tilt-Tank typically comes in two capacities of 950 cubic feet and 1,200 cubic feet. Customers specify components, depending on tank use. The Boasso America division provides a dedicated service agreement that includes use of the tank, loading and unloading equipment, as well as transportation.

Customers choose the tanks because of their mobility and convenience, as well as on-site storage.

“You just have to be diversified to keep up in this industry,” Boasso says. “It is very difficult for small depots to handle the many different services that are required in the tank container industry.”

Meanwhile, with the new Boasso America facility in place in Chalmette, and tank containers lining up at the gate for service at all of the depots, Boasso America appears ready to meet any challenges the industry presents.

About the Author

Mary Davis