The Passenger Vessel Association (PVA) threw a party last month and everybody came — or so it seemed. If a reporter had covered the social scene there, it might have been described as a “smash.”
To be fair, it’s not a party. It’s a convention and it has a serious side, too. And it has a name — PVA Annual Convention at MariTrends. This year it was in Savannah, Ga.
I caught up with John Groundwater, the group’s executive director, on the third day of the convention. He had a “pinch me I think I’m dreaming” look on his face. “I’m extremely happy. Delighted with the turnout,” he said. “We are seeing good representation from every market. We got over 100 booths, people from countries like Canada and Australia. Traffic has been good in the hall.”
That also went for attendance at the conference program. Sessions were wide ranging, including discussions about the future of the ferry market, cybersecurity and the sinking of the El Faro in 2015. It was standing room only in most of the sessions I attended.
At a time when the offshore sector has an erratic pulse and the inland waterways industry is searching for additional cargo to fill its overbuilt barge fleet, the passenger vessel sector is rolling. From sightseeing vessels to adventure tour boats to riverboats to ferries, there’s a lot of activity on the water and in the shipyards building for the industry. And it’s attracting attention.
Austal USA, which has been building exclusively for the Navy for the past several years, rejoined PVA and had a booth at the show. Breaux Brothers Enterprises’ Vic Breaux, a prolific builder of offshore crewboats in Loreauville, La., was also there. “I haven’t been here in a while,” he said. “I like this show. It’s got more of a laid back quality than most of the other shows like this. It’s pretty unique.”
I hadn’t been there in a while myself (four years), Vic. It was good to be back.