Ruby Marine purchases Inland Barge Service as barge season begins

As another barge season in the Interior gets into full swing, there is one less Nenana-based company offering services.

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The M/V Ramona at work. (Photo courtesy of Inland Barge Service)
The M/V Ramona at work. (Photo courtesy of Inland Barge Service)

Ruby Marine has purchased Inland Barge Service for an undisclosed amount, and incorporated the equipment and staff of Inland into its fleet.

Longtime Inland Barge owner and captain Charley Hnilicka called the deal a win-win, which began with a phone call earlier this year from Ruby Marine President Matt Sweetsir, who was concerned about a potential staffing problem at Ruby Marine.

“His crew was aging and it was time to get a better pool, or more of a pool, of workers so that he can start filling spaces as people retire or move on,” Hnilicka said. “The kind of work we do is so singular that you just can’t find somebody with a license to fill those spots and there is a long apprenticeship program. Realizing that, he approached me last spring about being bought by Ruby Marine.”

Inland Barge has already shut down its facility at the end of Front Street in Nenana, and merged its office operations and equipment with those of Ruby Marine at Mile 306 of the Parks Highway, on the north side of the Tanana River.

Hnilicka said that Ruby Marine will continue to offer the same services to customers that Inland Barge did, and while the companies have had a freight-sharing arrangement since Ruby Marine started in 2007, the financial implications of passing freight to someone else are now removed.

“There will be more flexibility now. I don’t have to worry about every ounce I am putting on my deck to pay my crew to satisfy my bills,” Hnilicka said. “Now everything is being pooled, so it will make it a lot easier to divvy up the freight. If Matt is going someplace before I am going there, he can take something, especially some of the bigger pieces that work better with his equipment.”

Hnilicka acquired Inland Barge in 1994 from original owners Claude Demientieff and family.

Inland’s familiar tugboat, the Ramona, has been running the Yukon and other interior rivers since 1971.