* Q2 EPS $0.85 vs $0.77 last year
* Q2 rev $511.8 mln, up 17 pct
* Sees Q3 EPS $0.87-$0.97 vs est $0.90
July 25 (Reuters) - Kirby Corp, the largest U.S. inland tank barge operator, posted a higher quarterly profit on increased fleet utilization and better rates, and it forecast a strong profit for the third quarter.
Kirby, which owns about a fourth of the United States' inland water barges -- flat-bottomed boats that carry petrochemicals, gasoline and fertilizers -- said it expects a strong inland marine transportation market in the third quarter and better spot contract pricing.
The company expects to earn 87 to 97 cents per share in the third quarter. Analysts on average were expecting it to earn 90 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Houston-based Kirby had drastically cut its second-quarter and full-year profit forecast last month on higher maintenance costs and softness in the oil-field related sales.
Net income for the second quarter rose to $47.6 million, or 85 cents per share, compared with $41.7 million, or 77 cents per share, a year earlier.
Total revenue rose 17 percent to $511.8 million..
Analysts on average had expected it to earn 82 cents per share on revenue of $520.8 million in the second-quarter.
The $2.61-billion company started out as an oil and gas explorer almost a century ago. In the last couple of years, it has gained from a surge in oil production from shale fields, which are being tapped using the hydraulic fracturing technique.
Kirby shares, which have fallen 27 percent in the past three months, closed at $46.88 on Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Divya Lad in Bangalore; Editing by Hezron Selvi)