No boom to bust this time

In his annual shipyard report a year ago, Senior Editor Ken Hocke reported that yards were bursting at the seams with OSVs and other vessels.

Those big OSV multivessel contracts are finally winding down, but that doesn’t mean yards are suffering. Sure, some Gulf yards that still rely almost entirely on the energy sector may suffer a bit, but others are seeing a resurgence in other sectors. One such sector is what Richard McCreary of BAE and others call the “traditional Jones Act trade.” This includes tankers, bulkers and ATBs.

Ken’s shipyard update (see page 46) is chock full of optimistic outlooks from McCreary, Matt Paxton of the Shipbuilders Council and others. A big driver has been domestic shale oil production and its thirst for tank barges. That boom led to a record year for tank barge construction in 2013 and another record should be set this year. 

Most of the tank barges are being built at Trinity Marine Products and Jeffboat. For Trinity Marine and its parent company Trinity Industries, barge slots are fully booked for 2014 and the company has been taking orders for 2015 production. In the first quarter, Trinity received $215 million in barge orders, giving it a backlog of $508 million at the end of March.

A bonus for Trinity and other barge builders has been a resurgence in demand for new hopper barges, fueled by stronger grain exports. To address the increased demand for hoppers, Trinity recently shifted some of its production capacity from smaller tank barges to hopper barges.

And the good news doesn’t end there. In Florida, business is still bustling at Eastern Shipbuilding Group and Patti Marine Enterprises. Both yards have stayed busy and added to their orderbooks in the last year.

For Eastern, it recently picked up a contract to build a trailing suction hopper dredge ATB for Great Lakes Dredge & Dock. It also continues to work on vessels for Hornbeck Offshore, Harvey Gulf and others.

And Patti Marine, which just finished the second of two new tugs for Signet Maritime (see page 52), has begun work on a new ATB tug for Moran Towing. The barge is being built up in Wisconsin at Bay Shipbuilding.

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