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A North Charleston manufacturing partnership between two of the top names in the boat-engine business is splitting up.

Cummins Inc. and Mercury Marine Inc. said they are dissolving their 9-year-old joint venture on Leeds Avenue but will continue to work together.

The breakup of Cummins MerCruiser Diesel Marine is expected to take about six months to complete, the companies said.

The engine makers said they are switching to "a strategic supply arrangement ... to more effectively and efficiently serve customers in the global diesel marine market."

"Cummins and Mercury Marine will each utilize their respective parent company resources to develop, manufacture, sell, distribute and service diesel engines, drives, pods and related parts, accessories and services," they said.

Cummins said the Leeds Avenue operation has 160 workers and about 20 contract employees.

Mercury plans to relocate an undisclosed number of local jobs after the split, most likely to its headquarters and main production center in Fond du Lac, Wisc., said spokesman Steve Fleming. Most affected workers will be offered the option to transfer, Fleming said.

The business partnership came to a natural end, he said.

"Joint ventures typically aren't forever," Fleming said. "That's the course here. In nine years, it seems to have done its job. Was it successful? Yeah, it was."

As part of the change, the Cummins MerCruiser brand will be retired. Mercury and Cummins will pursue different marine markets once the venture ends.

"Were taking the smaller but higher-speed engines," Fleming said of Mercury, a top manufacturer of recreational boat motors and part of Brunswick Corp.

Columbus, Ind.-based Cummins' local marine-engine operation will focus on the mid-range and heavy-duty diesel engine business. It will continue to use parts from Mercury, including propulsions systems, riggings and engine controls.

"We're planning on maintaining our presence in Charleston," said spokeswoman Janet Williams.

Separately, Cummins recently announced a $24 million expansion of a center at its Leeds Avenue plant that tests various types of engines.

Contact John McDermott at 937-5572.