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Pictured: the Tina Pyne Photo by: Randall Farhy


The Kirby Corporation was founded in 1921 by John Henry Kirby, a member of the Houston, Texas business community.

Initially formed as the Kirby Petroleum Company, an oil and gas exploration and development company. In 1948, a group of investors, including George Peterkin, Sr., the father of Kirby's Chairman Emeritus, George Peterkin, Jr., acquired the River Terminals Corporation, a transporter of petroleum between Houston and New Orleans and cotton down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. This company eventually became Dixie Carriers, Incorporated which was acquired by the Kirby Corporation in 1969.

The Kirby Petroleum Company operated as a Houston, Texas based independent oil and gas exploration and development company until 1956 when, after the sale of its producing properties, the remaining non producing acreage was merged with three other independent oil and gas companies to form Kirby VenSyn Petroleum Company, a publicly traded company.

As a result of the mergers, the Murchison family of Dallas, Texas later noted for its ownership of the Dallas Cowboys, owned approximately thirty five percent of Kirby Petroleum. Some Murchison family members remain shareholders of Kirby today.

Kirby VenSyn Petroleum Company changed its name to the Kirby Petroleum Company in 1957, and adopted the name Kirby Industries, Incorporated in 1967.

Kirby Industries operated as a conglomerate with many different operations oil and gas exploration and development through Kirby Petroleum Company. This also included manufacture of steel buildings through Kirby Building Systems, Incorporated, financing of automobiles through Caribbean Finance Company, Incorporated, property and casualty insurance through Universal Insurance Company, and marine transportation through Dixie Carriers, Incorporated Even though Kirby Industries maintained many different operations, the primary emphasis was on oil and gas exploration and development.

In 1974, with the underlying value of Kirby Industries assets substantially higher than the stock price, the Board of Directors adopted a plan of complete liquidation, designed to distribute to the stockholders of Kirby Industries cash and the stocks of certain companies. The oil and gas producing assets of Kirby Petroleum and the assets of Kirby Building Systems were sold, with the cash proceeds distributed to Kirby Industries stockholders. The stock of Caribbean Finance Company was distributed pro rata to the Kirby Industries stockholders, with Caribbean Finance Company becoming a publicly traded company. The liquidation also resulted in the stocks of Dixie Carriers and Universal Insurance, and the nonproducing oil and gas acreage, royalty interests and interests in oil and gas limited partnerships being transferred to a new corporation named Kirby Exploration Company.

The Kirby Exploration Company became publicly owned on September 30, 1976 when its common stock was distributed pro rata to the former Kirby Industries stockholders.

From 1976 through 1988, the Kirby Exploration Company was engaged in oil and gas exploration and development, marine transportation through Dixie Carriers, and property and casualty insurance through Universal Insurance. During that period, as in the past, Kirby's primary emphasis remained on oil and gas exploration and development. The oil and gas boom of the early 1980's was a very active period for the oil and gas operation, with extensive exploratory drilling in the Fletcher Field of Oklahoma. The field was not as productive as anticipated, with Kirby relying on the cash flow of Dixie Carriers and the stock value of Universal Insurance to financially support the oil and gas operation. Kirby entered the diesel engine services business in 1982 with the acquisition of Marine Systems, Incorporated. A small Gulf Coast facility servicing medium-speed and high-speed diesel engines used in marine applications.

During 1987, after an extensive study and much consideration, the Kirby Board of Directors determined that the future of Kirby should be concentrated on marine transportation and related activities. In April 1988, the oil and gas assets were sold and Kirby embarked on its marine transportation strategy.

Following that strategy, in 1990 the name of the company was changed to Kirby Corporation, retaining the Kirby identity as a publicly traded company.

During the late 1980's and early 1990's, under the guidance of Joseph H. Pyne, Kirby's President and Chief Executive Officer, Kirby grew from a medium-sized inland tank barge company to a diversified marine transportation company, offering transportation services in both inland and offshore arenas, as well as Kirby Engine Systems to marine and non-marine users. During that time frame, Kirby acquired Alamo Inland Marine Company, Brent Towing Company, Incorporated, Sabine Towing and Transportation, Ole Man River Towing Company, Scott Chotin, Incorporated, AFRAM Carriers, Incorporated, the transportation assets of Dow Chemical Company, as well as numerous other smaller inland and offshore transportation acquisitions.

Sabine Towing, acquired in 1992, had a history dating back to 1909. Dixie Carriers and Sabine Towing, as well as numerous of the other marine companies acquired by Kirby, were very instrumental in the development of the United States inland waterway system, which is composed of thousands of miles of navigable rivers, canals and coastal waterways.

In late 1997, the Board of Directors reassessed Kirby's business strategy and adopted a strategy to focus on core inland tank barge and diesel engine service businesses. In 1998, Kirby sold its offshore tank barges and ships, harbor tugs, remaining forty five percent ownership interest in Universal Insurance Company and changed the name of Dixie Carriers and Kirby's other marine transportation subsidiaries to Kirby Inland Marine.

In October 1999, Hollywood Marine, Incorporated was merged into Kirby Inland Marine, combining the nation's largest and third largest inland tank barge companies. Hollywood Marine, like Kirby, had a long history in the inland tank barge business, growing through a series of acquisitions, including Alamo Barge Lines in 1985, as well as through tank barge construction. Hollywood Marine was owned by C. Berdon Lawrence, who became Chairman of the Board of Kirby following the merger.

During 2002, Kirby continued its strategy of external growth with the purchase of the Cargo Carriers fleet, Union Carbide fleet, and part of the Coastal Towing fleet, with a management agreement for the remaining Coastal fleet.

In 2003, Kirby acquired the SeaRiver Maritime fleet, the U.S. transportation affiliate of Exxon Mobil Corporation. In 2005, Kirby acquired the black oil fleet of American Commercial Lines, Inc., in 2006, purchased the remaining Coastal Towing fleet, and in 2007 and 2008, Kirby purchased previously leased barges from Cypress Barge Leasing, Midland Marine and Siemens Financial and OFS Marine One.

During the 1990's and 2000's, Kirby also grew its diesel engine services business through a series of fourteen acquisitions, the largest of which was Global Power Holding Company in 2006. Global was a Gulf Coast high speed diesel engine services provider, operating full service marine dealerships for Caterpillar, Cummins, Detroit Diesel and John Deere high-speed diesel engines and Allison Transmission.

The 2011, Kirby acquired a fifty one percent interest in a barge shifting and fleeting facility on the Houston Ship Channel for four million, and acquired twenty one tank barges and fifteen towboats and tugboats primarily engaged in ship bunkering in Florida for fifty three million.

In April, Kirby acquired United Holdings, a distributor and service provider of engine and transmission related products for the land based oil and gas services, power generation and on highway transportation industries, and manufacturer of oilfield service equipment, for two hundred and seventy one, plus a three year earnout provision for up to an additional fifty million payable in 2014, dependent on achieving certain financial targets.

In July, Kirby acquired K-Sea Transportation of East Brunswick, New Jersey an operator of tank barges and tugboats participating in the coastal transportation of primarily refined petroleum products along all three United States coasts and in Alaska and Hawaii, for six hundred and three million.

In December, Kirby acquired three 80,000 barrel coastal tank barges and three tugboats for forty three million dollars. From SeaBoats, Incorporated of Portsmouth, Rhode Island.

As of March 2012, Kirby's marine transportation subsidiaries operate eight hundred and nineteen inland tank barges with 16.2 million barrels of capacity, two hundred and thrity six inland towboats, fifty nine coastal tank barges with 3.8 million barrels of capacity, sixty five coastal tugboats, four offshore dry-cargo barges, four offshore tugboats and one docking tugboat.

Kirby's inland fleet represents approximately twenty eight percent of the United States inland tank barge fleet and its coastal fleet represents approximately twenty two percent of the United States coastal tank barge fleet in the 185,000 barrel or less.

In 2012, Kirby acquired Allied Transportation of Norfolk, Virginia and in late 2012. The company acquired Penn Maritime of Staten Island, New York.