Jeffboat to lay off 278 workers amid weak demand for barges

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Employees at Jeffboat have been told the facility will close for good next month.

Several employees tell WDRB News that Jeffboat's vice president and general manager Mike Poindexter told them Friday that the Jeffersonville shipyard will close in early April, perhaps as early as April 2.

"We've been expecting it," said 15-year welder Craig Benim of Henryville, Indiana. 

Benim said he and fellow workers were called to a meeting Friday afternoon.

"He said, 'We're shutting down for good,' and that Jeffboat was 'shutting the doors,'" Benim said of Poindexter's comments Friday to workers.

Benim added that Poindexter described a surplus of barges throughout the U.S. as companies have overbuilt in the last several years. Poindexter said that it's cheaper for Jeffboat's customers to buy boats already built than order new ones.

Benim described the workers' reaction to the news as quiet.

"It's nice to finally hear it and [for Jeffboat] to finally say it," he said, referring to the closing.

Sources said about 160 union workers are still employed at Jeffboat. There was no word if they will be paid any severance.

Just last month, Jeffboat announced its latest round of layoffs, affecting more than 200 employees. The company announced an earlier round of layoffs in November last year. A closing had been rumored for several months.

No one from Jeffboat, its parent company American Commercial Barge Line or the union returned WDRB's calls or emails for comment. Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore said he had not been informed of the closing as of late Friday afternoon.

Jeffboat once boasted it was the largest inland shipyard in the country. Workers have built steamboats, barges, casino boats and LSTs for the U.S. Navy. It was especially busy during World War II. Jeffboat's history goes back about 80 years. A shipyard under various ownership has been at its Market Street address since the mid-1800s.

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