Is there a silver lining?

Crew quality for the boats that are still working will probably improve. The stacking of nearly 200 boats has left a large pool of experienced OSV crewmembers looking for work at any level. So if you need to upgrade your crews, now is the time. One vessel owner told me recently that he had filled an AB spot with an individual who had been a mate for a number of years, and he was glad to get the job.

The slowdown is also an excellent time to work on the fleet. Another owner recently said that he was taking advantage of the idle time to complete mandatory maintenance and inspections without taking the vessels to the shipyard and losing revenue. The same should be true of upgrades, if owners can afford them in the current climate.

All boat owners are working to cut costs. Wages have been negotiated downward, vessels fine-tuned to save money, and management trimmed to the minimum needed to ensure safe and efficient operation.

I come from the offshore drilling and production industry, a sector that has suffered as much as the workboat industry during downturns. There was one thing that we counted as a positive in a downturn – the elimination of “tired iron.” While it may not be pleasant to contemplate, a boom cycle demands that every piece of equipment, regardless of its suitability or condition, enter the market. Much of that equipment is inefficient, especially as technology progresses, and some of it is just plain dangerous. In the oil and gas industry, as with workboats, much of that equipment is scrapped in a downturn. I think that is a win.

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