It’s been four years since the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and businesswise, it seems, the disaster was nothing more than a speed bump for the offshore service vessel industry.
Despite an inevitable slowdown in new multiboat OSV contracts, the pace of offshore-related newbuild and repair work is still fairly steady at shipyards, as backlogs related to those deals are worked off. For those shipyards that have been riding high on the back of the energy sector for several years, there’s still plenty of demand out there. For OSVs, the yards are now seeing more demand from operators for larger, more sophisticated vessels, such as the MPSVs that Harvey Gulf and Hornbeck are building. This includes the subsea support vessel that BAE Systems is building for Oceaneering.
Richard McCreary of BAE told WorkBoat for our annual Yearbook report (see page 49) that he believes that U.S. yards are in a good spot. He said he is seeing a “resurgence of equipment” in the traditional Jones Act trade. That means more demand for tankers, bulkers, ATBs and other vessels, most of it being driven by the current domestic energy boom. McCreary added that there are also several military contracts that should be awarded soon.
Like OSVs, the big Z-drive harbor/escort tug building boom has finally cooled. The next surge may come from the long-haul oceangoing tug market, where some say it is just a matter of time before companies start upgrading their aging fleets (see page 60). “There’s no arguing the fact that most of the long-haul fleet in the U.S. is very, very old,” said Jonathan Parrott of Jensen Maritime Consultants.
On the passenger vessel side, optimism rules the day. Many operators say bookings are strong and anticipate a strong summer season with business nearing pre-recession levels. The harsh winter may have something to do with it. It has sent some fleeing to boats in warmer locales and others have been booking dinner cruises and other summer excursions in anticipation of better weather. “Everyone’s looking to get out,” said Patricia Carrothers of Diamond Jack’s River Tours, so advance bookings for the Detroit operator are up. That’s good news for Diamond Jack’s and the rest of the industry.