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Marine customers becoming increasingly important for Loud Fuel Co

June 2, 2014
BASED in the Cape Cod, Massachusetts area, it isn’t really surprising that Loud Fuel Co would be involved with fueling boats and ships.

BASED in the Cape Cod, Massachusetts area, it isn’t really surprising that Loud Fuel Co would be involved with fueling boats and ships. However, that activity has become an increasingly important part of the operation.

Marine fueling is something that Loud Fuel does very well and very safely. That high level of service has steadily brought more marine fueling business.

Some of the deliveries can be quite large. Loud Fuel has delivered as much as 300,000 gallons of marine diesel to a US Navy destroyer; and deliveries of 6,000 gallons to fishing boats are a routine part of the business.

In addition to marine fueling, Loud Fuel offers a broad range of services as a petroleum marketer and transporter. The company’s 60 tankwagons and 16 petroleum transports serve customers throughout the south shore of Boston, Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard.

Among the many services provided by Loud Fuel Co, owned by Mike Tasha, far right, and managed by his son, Kabraul, far left, is the delivery of large amounts of fuel to ocean-going vessels. One of these is the Atlantis, a research and education ship operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Woods Hole MA that can be out to sea for six months at a time. Standing with the Tashas in the photo is Mike Trask, center, of Hall Trask Equipment Co. Loud Fuel serves customers with a fleet that includes 60 tankwagons and six propane bobtails.
Acquisition growth

Loud Fuel is one of a number of Cape Cod-area fuel distributors acquired by Mike Tasha over the course of about 20 years. Hailing from Provincetown on the far northern tip of Cape Cod, Tasha and his wife, Halcyone, acquired their first fuel distributor—Cape Cod Oil Co—in 1974.

“I’ve been in the oil business for all of my working life,” Mike Tasha says. “When I got out of high school, I went to college for a year in Boston, but decided that really wasn’t for me. So I came back and worked for Cape Cod Oil for several years before purchasing it in 1974.”

That set off a series of acquisitions over the next 20 years for Tasha, who added Frank’s Oil Co, Canal Fuel Co, Mooney Fuel Co, East Ham Discount Oil, and Cape Cod Propane, among others, to his portfolio. The routine was the same for each acquisition. He would buy the company, maintain its established name, and run it as an autonomous business.

In all, Mike Tasha acquired around 18 oil companies. Facilities included six bulk plants with storage capacities ranging from 50,000 to 200,000 gallons.

One of the most challenging opportunities came in 2012 when Loud Fuel delivered 300,000 gallons of fuel over a two-day period to the USS Michael Murphy, a newly commissioned guided-missile destroyer.

One of Tasha’s last major purchases occurred in 1994 when he acquired Loud Fuel Co of Falmouth, Massachusetts. At that time, Tasha also was completing the purchase of Mooney Fuel Co.

Good timing

The timing couldn’t have been better. Mike’s son, Kabraul, had just returned home from a few years away at college and decided he wanted to enter the family business. With Mike concentrating on the new Mooney Fuel business, he gave Kabraul the keys to the Loud Fuel operation.

“At that point, Loud Fuel was a pretty small company, around a million gallons a year,” Mike Tasha says. “Kabraul took a million-gallon business and developed it into a 10-million gallon business. We do a lot of marine fueling here and also have a transportation company (Tasha Trucking) that transports all of our fuel to all of our terminals and Kabraul also runs that now and buys all the fuel and gasoline for our service stations. We have a fleet of CITGO and some Shell stations and he helps maintain and run those with our other managers, along with managing Loud Fuel Co.”

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Indeed, Loud Fuel has grown to offer a wide variety of services to a customer base that stretches along Massachusetts Route 3 and US Route 6, which runs like a spine through the Cape Cod peninsula, from Plymouth in the west to Orleans in the east.

“Back in 1994 when we bought Loud Fuel Co., it was basically a one-truck operation,” Kabraul Tasha says. “I drove the truck and wife, Julie, was in the office answering phones and collecting money. Since then, we’ve gone from a heating oil company to commercial diesel, which took off, and then we got into a large portion of marine fueling. Lately, we’ve diversified more into biofuels. We’re hauling a lot of biofuels that come in on rail from the Midwest and we truck them to the source, including having a very large contract with CITGO Petroleum.”

Kabraul Tasha stands next to one of Tasha Trucking’s 12,000-gallon transports, one of 16 in the fleet. Like all of the trucks in the fleet the tractors look very much like owner-operator rigs.
Leading player

Under Kabraul Tasha’s direction, Loud Fuel has truly become a leading player in the supply of marine fuel to a wide variety of vessels that are used in many unique operations. For instance, Loud Fuel supplies fuel to the Steamship Authority in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, which operates the ferries that transport vehicles and residents/tourists to and from Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Island.

Loud Fuel also has a supply contract with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI), which is dedicated to research and education designed to advance the understanding of the ocean and its interaction with the Earth system. As part of that research and education, WHOI regularly sends ships out to sea for six months at a time, all of which need to be loaded with upwards of 100,000 gallons of fuel before they depart.

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“Over time, we got into a large portion of marine fueling,” Kabraul Tasha says. “After years of doing marine fueling, I got into the Coast Guard manual, which is to fill anything over 10,000 gallons of storage, then we started doing 20,000 to 30,000 gallons, and now we do boats that hold 100,000, 200,000, or 300,000 gallons. We do big Navy ships, long-line boats that go offshore for 30 days at a time, two draggers that are probably the biggest on the East Coast, which take 6,000 gallons a week.”

Navy destroyer

While marine fueling has developed into a profitable niche for Loud Fuel, the most unique—and impressive—marine related job the company took on in recent years occurred in the summer of 2012. At that time, the US Navy was building a new guided-missile destroyer, the USS Michael Murphy, which is named for a Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor/Purple Heart recipient who was killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan in 2005. When the Michael Murphy was seaworthy, it was transported to the Newport, Rhode Island, Shipyard, where it would need to be fueled before heading to Virginia to be commissioned before heading to Hawaii, where it would be stationed.

This fueling operation required 300,000 gallons of fuel to be loaded onto the boat and the supplier tasked with performing the operation was Loud Fuel. To do so, Kabraul Tasha had to modify his personal 10-wheeler tankwagon, which is a tricked-out beauty featuring all-chrome trim and accessories, so it could pump 270 gallons per minute through a 3-inch discharge line. The pump for the job was a Blackmer TXD3 Series sliding vane pump. For two straight days, a steady stream of fuel transports arrived at the dock in Newport and offloaded through the meter on Kabraul’s truck and into the Michael Murphy’s fuel-storage tanks.

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“This operation is Coast Guard-regulated so we couldn’t just come down with 10 different trucks and 10 different hoses,” Kabraul Tasha says. “The fuel had to go through a specific hose and a specific meter that were approved by the government. My Blackmer pump would grab the fuel, throw it through the meter and out the discharge. As we were fueling, water was coming off the boat and there was not a stitch of rainbow in that water. It was a two-day pump. It was impressive, and when we were done, all we did was add a little grease to the Blackmer pump and that was it. That pump was on an old truck that’s moved at least 10 million gallons through it and it came through like a champ.”

Fleet equipment

Decades of transporting and distributing refined fuels has given the Tashas a clear sense of the equipment that works best in their operations. They want equipment that is reliable and will deliver a long life.

At Loud Fuel, the company runs primarily Peterbilt trucks and tractors. The company has no trade cycle for its truck fleet, but the vehicles certainly don’t look old.

Trucks and tractors are very well maintained and are dressed out like owner-operator vehicles. “We give our drivers the opportunity to customize the trucks a little with lightbars and other hardware,” Kabraul Tasha says.

Caterpillar engines predominate, most of them rated for at least 500 horsepower. Technology from Pittsburgh Power boosts the engines as high as 800 horsepower. Most of the trucks and tractors have Fuller 18-speed manual transmissions.

All of the truck-mounted cargo tanks come from Boston Steel & Manufacturing Co. “They build a very good product, and we have had a strong relationship with David Burke and his team for many years,” says Kabraul Tasha. “The product is incredibly overbuilt. We rebuild the tank system every 10 years or so and we have some units in the fleet that are more than 40 years old.”

Tankwagon capacities range from 2,500 to 6,000 gallons. “We need the smaller tanks to serve customers in more congested areas and on some of the islands,” Kabraul Tasha says.

Loud Fuel also runs 12,000-gallon Heil petroleum trailers. The three-axle trailers are allowed under Massachusetts state law, which makes it possible to run a maximum gross combination weight of 110,000 pounds.

Tank hardware

Every tankwagon and every tractor has a Blackmer product pump powered by a Chelsea PTO. “Every truck I own has a Blackmer pump on it,” says Mike Tasha. “I had some other trucks that had some problems with knockoff pumps and decided, at that point, that Blackmer was the pump for us. Those other pumps are noisy, have leaks and just don’t live up to the promises, but the Blackmers certainly do. The Blackmers need very little maintenance, and they seem to go along a lot longer than what you would even begin to think they would. We do everything with them: we suck out of the ground; we pump overhead; we pump from truck-to-truck, so we certainly use them in a lot more different ways than the average guy that just might deliver oil to a house.”

Product handling hardware also includes Liquid Controls meters and registers, Scully overfill protection, Civacon and EBW bottom-loading adapters, Betts and Civacon internal valves, Betts domelids, and Hannay and Boston Steel hose reels.

Virtually all of the equipment, including the Blackmer pumps, comes from Hall Trask Equipment Co in Braintree, Massachusetts. Hall Trask supplies the pumps, meters, valves, product tanks—both aboveground and below ground.

“The Tasha’s have gas stations and we serve that sector, as well,” says Mike Trask, who is part of the third generation of Trasks—along with brothers Billy and Paul—to run the company that their grandfather founded and their father subsequently operated. “The Tashas also have bulk fueling depots, and we handle that equipment as well. We have sold them all of their oil-delivery vehicles since Boston Steel is their choice of tanks and we are a distributor and fabricator for Boston Steel.”

Kabraul Tasha, says: “Hall Trask is our equipment supplier because they are a lot like us. They know how we want our stuff done. They know when we want our stuff done. It’s not just a business relationship, we refer each other to other customers, and we help each other out of jams.”

Close relationships matter for the Tashas. They try to treat customers the way they want to be treated.

“We have plenty of competition,” Kabraul Tasha says. “It is critical that we do a good job for every customer and that we do it right every time. That was the key to our success from the very start.”      ♦