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Its Part of Our Lifeline.


TAMPA, Fla. – Driving west on Maritime Boulevard and attempting to enter the Port of Tampa is reminiscent of crossing the U.S. border into Canada or Mexico. As you slow your vehicle, your initial thought is that you are about to enter customs, and have forgotten your passport.

Visitors to the port – a former World War II naval base on Floridas Gulf coast that today is the eighth-largest commercial port in the U.S. – must be on a pre-approved list, and produce a government-issued photo i.d., which is photocopied and filed. A the security checkpoint, an armed Tampa Port Authority officer verifies all these documents and again questions your destination. All cargo containers entering the port are scaned by x-ray, and all incoming trucks are stoped and checked.

Inside this security fortress, Amalie Oil Co. operates its main 275,0 square foot manufacturing, packaging and shipping facility, situated near a deepwater dock.

Being on the waterfront certainly requires that we have better security, Deny Madden, vice president of sales and marketing, told LubesnGreases during a visit in March.

In fact, Madden says that security has always been an issue here – originally to stem the flow of drugs entering the port – but it became more serious after Sept. 1, 2001.

Before 9/1, all this tight security wasnt here, said Madden. In fact, a foreign visitor recently began taking photos and a TPA official arrived almost instantly. Photographing the port, especially the pier where cargo arrives and departs, is not permitted unless approved by the Port Authority.

Amalies location near the water also provides a big advantage in getting the company large volumes of raw materials quickly, rather than having to depend on hundreds of railcars. The port is part of our lifeline, said Madden, despite the constant worry about hurricanes, which in the past have caused power outages and evacuations.

Ninety-five percent of our base oil arrives here by either barge or by deep-draft oceangoing tanker vessels, and the rest arrives by rail or truck, he said. Every day, railcars each with a capacity to hold 20,0 pounds of base stock arrive from a refinery. Additives, to, almost exclusively arrive here by railcar.

The company regularly unloads up to 2 million gallons of base stock by barge and/or up to 3 million gallons by ship, after these deep-draft vessels pull into the 43-foot deep waters off the pier that serves a number of the ports tenants. Two of these vessels can be unloaded at a time through pipelines that run from the plan to the pier.

Obtaining these raw materials, however, is getting more challenging, Madden explained. Today, as the price of a barrel of crude oil continually soars, we compete every day for these raw materials. As the cost of crude goes up, the cost of base oil goes up, and that hurts us. But realize that refiners can sell that molecule one way or another, so we are competing with gasoline, diesel and ancillary products like cement, glass and steel to get that molecule. The same is true of additives.

Brands to Go

With 165 employes at its Tampa facility, the privately owned firm mainly focuses on toll blending for major oil companies; blending products under its own Amalie, Xcel, Rallye, Value Tech and Wolfs Head brands; and private-label branding for auto-parts chains, big box stores and traditional oil jobbers.

It also maintains a satellite facility in Los Angeles which, at only a third of the size of the Florida plant, has 35 employes and gets all its raw materials by rail. Recently, the company sold its Jacksonsville, Fla., plant, which mainly served as a backup facility for Tampa.

The $10-plus-million company produces between 60 million and 65 million gallons of lubricants a year, with a product line that includes motor oils, hydraulic oils, gear oils and other commercial and industrial lubricants for more than 300 customers. The vast majority, 65 percent, of the companys blending is for the automotive sector including passenger car and diesel engine oils, with the rest for industrial markets. It also serves the quick-lube market through its network of distributors.

The domestic automotive lubricant market is growing at a very slow rate due to an overall decrease in annual miles driven per vehicle coupled with an increase in the average oil change interval, said business development manager Andrew Bornstein. Additionally, the market is becoming fragmented with a dramatic increase in the number of products required to meet industry specifications and OEM requirements. Even with those considerations, Amalie is firmly committed to the sector, and our volume has been steadily growing, thanks to timely introduction of new products.

A tour of the facility with Madden reveals 220 storage tanks that tower above the plant and are arrayed throughout the 19-acre property. Madden explains that the company has added eight new million-gallon tanks, five new 650,000-gallon tanks and 26 additional tanks that average between 30,000 and 40,000 gallons each. In total, the facility can store in excess of 22 million gallons.

Inside the plants main blending and manufacturing area, each process is automated, from blending of the raw materials, to filling the bottles on the conveyor lines, to high-speed blowmolding of the companys own plastic bottles. Madden explains that the additives and base oils are stored in bulk tanks that are numbered. An operator will hook hoses to the corresponding tank fitting, and then to one of the two in-line blenders. Because of the large number of tanks, a large number of hoses are required, which on busy days looks like a snake pit, he said.

The soon-to-be-remodeled testing laboratory is also within the plant, adjacent the blending area. All incoming base oil and additives, and outgoing final product, are tested for compliance.

Walking through the mammoth warehouse section of the building, rows of packaged products are stacked from floor to ceiling. From here, the packaged products – from 8-ounce plastic containers to 55-gallon drums – will make their way to the shipping bays for loading onto trucks for delivery to customers in all 50 states and 80 nations worldwide, in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the Caribbean, plus all of South and Central America.

Formerly PePac

Inside Amalies offices, construction is in progress, with the scent of sawdust permeating the air.

Ive been here for over 30 years, Madden said. In that time no suggestion or opportunity has ever been considered silly. The Barkett brothers trust one another implicitly, and their individual skills complement one another perfectly.

Amalie began as Petroleum Packers, a company founded by Dick Agster in 1946 and bought in 1977 by the sons of Harry Barkett, founder of Miami-based Barkett Oil Co.

PePac, as it was nicknamed, acquired the Amalie line of lubricants in 1998 from Philadelphia-based Sunoco, carrying off a prize that dated to 1903 and was one of the original Pennsylvania crude motor oil companies. A year later, Petroleum Packers changed its own name to Amalie Oil Co. It then went on to add another old-line brand to its roster – Wolfs Head – which Shell unloaded after absorbing Pennzoil-Quaker State.

Today, Barketts sons Harry J. (president), Anthony (vice president administration), Rick (vice president operations) and Ken (treasurer) own and operate the company.

We try every day to teach the lessons and work ethic that our father instilled in us to our children and employees, said Harry J. Barkett. It is very satisfying to see our family business grow and prosper and become a meaningful member of the community and mean something to our employees. It is rather daunting when you think of how many people now depend upon us to succeed, so that we will continue to be able to offer them employment in an environment where they want to work.

Being involved in a family-owned business in these times is both fun and difficult, he continued. It is fun because all of us get to see the seeds that we have sown blossom and bear fruit. It is difficult because as a small family-owned business, we have to compete against the giants every day. We have to out-hustle our competitors, large and small, every day or we will be left in the dust. That is both fun and frustrating.


One of those frustrations came last September when Amalie suffered the worst incident on its site, when a viscosity modifier solubilization unit caught fire, and caused the loss of 5,000 gallons of oil, said Madden. The trigger was a faulty electrical motor in the system.

Plumes of smoke rose above the Port of Tampa that night last fall. In addition to the firemen, vacuum truck crews worked to suck up the oil and minimize the damage. Madden credits the Tampa Fire Department for its quick response, and for its overall protection of the port.

The fire department takes care of the port, Madden said. They are very well able to handle fires, have all the right equipment, and have knowledge of each and every thing that is going on here in the port. The fire department, Port Authority, and all the ports tenants have regular meetings and have detailed maps of what we are doing here.

Since the incident, the company has installed a heavy-duty motor and is rebuilding the solubilization unit, which is just about ready. It has redoubled its efforts by becoming more attentive, more closely watching the dials and watching the thermostat better.

Ambitious Aims

That recent challenge, however, has not deterred Amalie from expanding its business operations.

Already involved with motorsport racing as the official motor oil of the International Hot Rod Association since 1999, the company is looking to increase its presence in 2-cycle and 4-cycle outboard engine oils.

Many environmental and legislative factors are driving changes in marine and small engine applications with a corresponding need for improved 2- and 4-stroke lubricants, business manager Bornstein said. To augment our current slate of marine and small engine lubricants, Amalie is in the process of developing an entirely new family of marine products – crankcase oils, gear oils, greases. As the category changes and grows, we want to position ourselves at the forefront.

Once a large producer of heavy-duty marine oils (a dropoff that occurred because one of its largest customers was bought by another manufacturing entity), Amalie today is trying to regain entry into the heavy-duty marine lube market by taking advantage of the prospects opening up in ports in Asia and elsewhere.

Madden said the company has an active sales effort in Portugal, China, Korea, Vietnam, Philippines and Japan, which could serve as a springboard for reentry into their ports. We have had much success in signing new business. Price and quality are the issues most important to the people in these areas, and we have been able to demonstrate that we can deliver both.

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