Buls Eye

Bruce Buls photo Boatbuilders, designers embrace at PME

November 29, 2012

For those of us in the commercial marine industry, this has been PME week in Seattle. Even though this annual trade show has been called Pacific Marine Expo for many years, a lot of folks still refer to the event as “Fish Expo,” and it’s still pretty fishy. You won’t find a booth full of frozen bait herring at next week’s WorkBoat Show in New Orleans, but there was some of that here at PME.

There has also been a strong emphasis on boatbuilding at this year’s show. The keynote speaker at National Fisherman’s Boatbuilding Day yesterday was Johan Sperling, vice president of Seattle-based Jensen Maritime Consultants. Sperling was a good choice to address an audience comprised of both commercial fishermen and commercial mariners. Although JMC has become one of the nation’s premier tug designers, it still has many commercial fishing clients, including Alaska Leader Fisheries, which is having a Jensen-designed freezer-longliner built at J.M. Martinac Shipbuilding in nearby Tacoma. The 184-footer will have diesel-electric power and Z-drives, both of which are new innovations for the Alaska fishing industry.

Sperling said that since JMC became part of Crowley Maritime a few years ago, the company has grown quickly. It has also gotten a dose of reality by sharing space with Crowley’s tug operations. “It’s not unusual for somebody from Crowley to ask us why in the world we did something the way we did when designing a tug,” said Sperling.

Sperling also shared a stage earlier in the show with Jonathan Platt from Martinac and the two of them agreed that the partnership between designers/engineers and boatbuilders is fundamental. Yards like Martinac don’t have the engineering staffs that they used to, so they rely more than ever on precise, detailed designs from the naval architects. But the designers must also be aware of what works and what doesn’t at a shipyard.

Another conference session at PME featured a discussion with Guido Perla of Guido Perla & Associates and Bryan Nichols of Vigor Industrial. They, too, emphasized the importance of a team approach to boatbuilding that includes the owner/operator, the architect/engineer and the builder.

It’s been a great show with the always-enjoyable encounters with industry people that one sees only at these events.

I’m looking forward to more of the same next week in New Orleans. There's still time to register. I hope to see you there.

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