Demand for workboats at U.S. shipyards is still weak. But despite this and some economists estimating that it’s 50-50 that we’ll see a double-dip recession, shipyards are amazingly optimistic.
As WorkBoat Senior Editor Ken Hocke found out from shipyard officials he talked to recently, that despite the weak economy, yards are steadfast in their belief that business is getting ready to bust out. Take Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding in Massachusetts, for example, which has been laying off workers since the beginning of the year. But yard president Peter Duclos sees a lot of projects being dangled out there for yards that eventually will come to fruition. And when they do, Duclos, like many other yard officials, expects to begin hiring back workers.
In the meantime, Gladding-Hearn and others aren’t totally idle. Duclos is busy with four vessels and recently delivered another new pilot boat. The same can be said for Maine’s Washburn & Doughty, which has two harbor tugs underway for Moran Towing and is hopeful that the company will give the go-ahead on more newbuilds soon.
But money is tight. Yards report that while it is good to see all the bids out there, customers remain hesitant when it comes to finalizing contracts. Part of the reason is that financing remains difficult, and, as Duclos said, “There seems to be so much indecision in each process.” The work will eventually come, but yards must have a lot of patience with existing and potential customers.
Yes, business is slow, and it is expected to stay that way into 2012. But the good news is that the phones are ringing, the prospects are becoming more serious, and yards expect to see more business in the near future. You can read more about what’s going on at workboat-building yards and their outlook for the future in the October issue of WorkBoat.